Feathered Bastard

Bill Montgomery's Victims Plead Not Guilty En Masse as Their Children Weep

The cattle call began a little after 8:30 a.m. Wednesday for the unfortunates arrested in the MCSO's Sportex Apparel raid in Tempe the first week of February.

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Twenty-three of them were seated in a sort-of fish bowl for humans to the right of the judge. Mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, grandmothers, and grandfathers all listened quietly to the translator as she told them in Spanish what Commissioner Rees was saying in English.

He advised them of their rights, and that he would be entering not guilty pleas for all of them as they came before him, one by one, in rapid succession, each charged with multiple counts of forgery and taking the identity of another.

In an obnoxious twist of American jurisprudence, these men and women are presumed guilty due to a cruel and ingenious policy created by now disgraced and disbarred former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, and carried on by his successor, current County Attorney Bill Montgomery.

Because these people are presumed guilty and because they are presumed to be in the United States illegally and because they are presumed to have used fictitious Social Security numbers, or the SSN's of the dead or the living in order to work long hours at low pay, they are over-charged by Montgomery's prosecutors, hit with counts that will make them nonbondable in Maricopa County, on par with murderers, rapists, and child molesters.

By comparison, even admitted killer Jodi Arias was granted bond, albeit one set prohibitively high: $2 million.

And in contrast to the Sportex employees, Arias is presumed innocent until proven guilty, at least technically.

On the other hand, the men and women nabbed for working sans authorization at Sportex cannot be granted bond under the dictates of Arizona's Prop 100, and Montgomery's sadistic, anti-immigrant policies.

Unlike the thousands of privileged college kids caught using a fake or "borrowed" ID, who normally are not even cited, but often merely have their bogus driver's licenses confiscated by a club bouncer, the undocumented workers are hit with the highest felony counts possible.

And they receive multiple counts, sometimes just because a fake SSN was scribbled onto more than one document in the accused's employment file. Whereas the college kid, at most, might be cited for a misdemeanor.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons