Trial Connected to O'Neill Immigration Raid Opens

Nov. 6, 2019, 10:47 a.m. ·

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Fred Knapp of NET News attended the first day of a trial in Lincoln that grew out of last year's immigration raid in O'Neill, Nebraska. Here he is interviewed by NET News' Jack Williams:

Good afternoon. I'm Jack Williams. Three people charged with conspiracy and harboring workers in the country illegally went on trial today and Lincoln's federal district court Fred Knapp of NET News was there and he joins us live. Now, Fred, what's this case all about?

Well, Jack, if you remember on August 8 2018, there was a big immigration raid in O'Neill, Nebraska and the surrounding areas where about 130 people were arrested on immigration violations. At the same time, another 17 were indicted for conspiracy to harbor those people. They were working at a tomato processing plant, a potato plant, feedlots and farms in the area. So this case is about some of those 17 people.

What can you tell us about these people?

Well, the government says at the heart of the conspiracy was a fellow named Juan Pablo Sanchez Delgado, who ran staffing companies that supplied illegal workers -- workers who were in the country illegally -- to the companies so that the companies didn't have to hire them directly. But the government says Delgado needed help, and three people in this trial -- John Good, a local businessman, John Glidden, who helped run a hog farm operation, and Mayra Jimenez, who worked in human relations for the tomato plant, were allegedly, according to the government, helping Sanchez Delgado.

So what happened in court today?

Well, most of the day was taken up with jury selection, but in the afternoon, there were opening arguments by both the government and the defense lawyers. Lesley Woods of the U.S. Attorney's Office outlined the government's case, how the people that are being tried supposedly helped Delgado. She said Mayra Jimenez convinced him to open a staffing company. Glidden pushed workers to work harder at the hog operation and offered them housing. Good provided housing to Delgado himself who was in the country illegally and his wife Magdalena, who had previously been doing deported, and called to warn him of a potential raid by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement had begun last July stopping workers on the way to the plant -- traffic stops -- because they had wiretaps on some of these people, and they were trying to see what their reaction would be.

And what did the defense lawyers have to say?

Well, Dave Domina is representing John Good and he said that Mr. Good had bought a house in his own name, and later sold it to Juan Pablo and Magdalena for no profit out of the goodness of his heart. And he mocked calling that harboring, saying it was an act of kindness, and added that Good had not met his co-defendants until today. Carlos Monzon, representing John Glidden, said the case was about the government trying to find scapegoats, and Glidden was merely an employee of businesses that told him to use Delgado's staffing company. And Candace Wooster, represented Mayra Jimenez, described her client as a middleman who merely asked for the employees that were needed in the business.

So what's up next?

Well, the government's going to begin laying out its case. One key witness will be a guy named Robert Visnaw who's an investigator for ICE. In a previous case he's testified that the company's paid Delgado's staffing company $13 an hour for workers. They received as little as $8 because he wasn't paying taxes, Medicare, Social Security, that sort of stuff. Monzon questioned why companies would be paying as much the $13 if they knew that the workers were in the country illegally. Delgado has pled guilty, but he's still awaiting sentence sentencing and Wooster suggested that everyone who the government will bring in as witnesses has gotten something for their testimony.

How long is the trial expected to last?

It's supposed to go five to seven days with a possibility of 75 witnesses and evidence including wiretaps in English and Spanish.