Judge Slaps County Prosecutors (Oh So Lightly) in Waterworld ID-Theft Case

We wrote a few weeks ago about the ongoing criminal case against Lessie Serrano, a food-service supervisor for Golfland Entertainment Inc., the company that owns two Valley water parks and used to own WaterWorld (now called Phoenix Wet `n' Wild) in Glendale.

​Last December 18, a Maricopa County grand jury indicted Serrano on highly publicized charges of aggravated identity theft (the equivalent under Arizona law of committing manslaughter) and hindering prosecution.

The charges came months after Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's deputies raided the popular water park and arrested several Latino employees suspected (and later proven) of being in this nation illegally.

"[Serrano] actively encouraged, aided, and abetted the workers' identity theft as an accomplice," a prosecutor wrote at one point in the legal proceedings.

In late June, Serrano's defense team asked trial judge Paul McMurdie to dismiss the case for various legal grounds that we spelled out in our cover story. 

In part, attorney Jordan Green alleged that Serrano's due-process rights were violated when county prosecutors tacitly allowed the feds to deport to Mexico a key witness whose courtroom testimony clearly would have helped the defense win the day.

However, Judge McMurdie recently ruled that "here, justice does not require the Court to dimiss the [case] to achieve due process." He said the trial jury will get to hear what the witness in question told authorities before being being deported, as well as the fact that prosecutors allowed the woman to be deported.

The judge also wrote that he will give a so-called Willits instruction at trial, which will tell jurors they may consider in their deliberations the fact that prosecutors "lost, destroyed, or failed to preserve" evidence potentially favorable to the defense.

The Serrano trial still is several months in the future.