Related topics

Minister, Journalist Acquitted

August 2, 1988 GMT

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) _ A Lutheran minister and a free-lance journalist were acquitted Tuesday of violating federal law by bringing into the United States two pregnant Salvadoran women described by the defense as refugees.

A jury deliberated 4 1/2 hours over two days before acquitting the Rev. Glen Remer-Thamert and Demetria Martinez of all charges.

The defense billed the case as the first court test in New Mexico for the sanctuary movement, which since 1980 has sought to aid refugees from war-torn areas of Central America.

Remer-Thamert’s attorneys portrayed him as a religious man who believed he could legally help two refugees under then-Gov. Toney Anaya’s March 1986 proclamation declaring New Mexico a sanctuary state.

″It all came down to intent. I think this would have been a different case without the sanctuary proclamation,″ juror Antoinette Tellez, 23, said after the verdict.

Juror Yvette Carrillo also said the jury was swayed by the sanctuary proclamation arguments in the case of Remer-Thamert. She added that jurors agreed from the start of deliberations that Ms. Martinez was along solely as a reporter on the August 1986 trip to bring the women to Albuquerque.

Ms. Martinez’s attorney, Tova Indritz, had contended her client was protected by the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of the press.

Remer-Thamert, 44, was charged with one count of conspiracy and two counts each of transporting, harboring and inducing the women to enter the United States. Ms. Martinez, 28, was charged with one count of conspiracy to violate immigration laws and two counts each of transporting and inducing the women.

Prosecutors alleged Remer-Thamert schemed with a Salvadoran attorney to bring the women to the United States to give their babies up for adoption and then return the mothers to El Salvador.

They contended Ms. Martinez helped Remer-Thamert get the women into the United States from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Prosecutors said the defendants knew they were acting illegally because Remer-Thamert paid a Juarez family to get the women from Mexico into the United States and the group took back roads on the way to Albuquerque to avoid U.S. Border Patrol checkpoints.

The women, Ines Campos-Anzora and Cecelia Elias-Alegria, were the chief prosecution witnesses in the two-week trial.

ADVERTISEMENT

The prosecution contended the women were not refugees because they came to the United States to give up their babies for adoption and perhaps to get jobs, and because they intended to return to El Salvador. Ms. Campos testified she was not afraid in her native country.

Defense attorney Alice Hector countered that most refugees intend to return to their native land sometime.

Remer-Thamert said he hopes immigration authorities grant the women refugee status and allow them to stay in the the country.

The babies already are U.S. citizens, because they were born in New Mexico. Ms. Compos kept her baby, while Ms. Elias’ baby was given up for adoption.

The women remain in the United States on temporary permits from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.

The courtroom was packed with family, friends and supporters of the defendants, who gasped as the court clerk read the verdicts on each of the counts against Remer-Thamert. The minister stood with his attorneys, hugging one of them.

When it was Ms. Martinez’s turn to hear the verdicts on the charges against her, she and her attorney stood with their hands on each other’s shoulders. After the acquittal, they both sat down and wiped tears from their eyes.

U.S. Attorney William Lutz said after the verdicts, ″We felt there was good evidence the (Salvadoran) women entered illegally and were transported illegally. ...

″But the question was one of intent and the jury disagreed with our position on what the intent was,″ Lutz said.

Lutz, who contended all along the case was not one of sanctuary or freedom of the press, said the decision would have no effect on his office’s prosecution of future alien cases.

″Each case involves its own set of facts,″ he said.

Ms. Martinez, who writes for the Albuquerque Journal and the National Catholic Reporter, said she hoped ″the victory will encourage other reporters to get out and find out what the government has to hide in its role in the situation in El Salvador.″