Felony suspects with ICE requests under tighter scrutiny in Travis County
The Travis County Sheriff’s Office and the District Attorney's Office are looking for ways to make sure suspects with detainer requests who are wanted for certain types of major crimes have a harder time getting released. The review comes after Fox 7 was first to report on two cases this week where bonds were initially set low for two men charged with crimes against children.
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31-year-old Hugo Javier Gallardo-Gonzalez was charged with repeatedly sexually assaulting a young girl. An ICE detainer was initially denied. Gallardo-Gonzalez made bail on Monday and was being fitted with a GPS tracker before his case was flagged. “An arrest warrant was issued, he was apprehended by Border Patrol officials in Webb County,” says Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore about Gallardo-Gonzalez’s case, adding, “His version was that he was re-entering the country. That did not allay our fears that is a flight risk on a very serious charge.”
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After examining the charges more closely, the Travis County Sheriff’s Office determined that Gallardo-Gonzalez’s case did qualify for an ICE detainer under Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez’s new policy. “If they make bond, if the detainer is on honored, ICE picks them up at the jail, if the detainer is not honored, ICE picks them up on the street, either way that defendant is no longer in Travis County to face the felony charge,” says Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore. “If he is apprehended by ICE then they take him out of the community that is a problem for us,” she says about cases like Gallardo-Gonzalez’s.
That’s why, Moore adds, on Wednesday morning lawyers for the state petitioned a Judge to raise Gallardo-Gonzalez’s bail. The request was granted, and a new bail was set for $250,000. Gallardo-Gonzalez is still listed in Travis County Jail records.
Read Travis Co. ICE detainer policy under fire
Initially another defendant charged with a crime against a child had his bail set at $24,000. Meaning if 45 year-old Javier Hernandez-Torres made bail, he would have been released. That’s why Moore says they petitioned a judge to up his bail too. “The defendant had been a fugitive for 2 or 3 years so when he got re-arrested and it's a serious enough case, our prosecutors caught it and filed a motion to increase the bond.” That request was also granted, increasing his bail to $104,000.
Although Hernandez-Torres is being charged with “indency with a child by contact” which is a 2nd degree felony, his crime does not qualify for a detainer under Sheriff Hernandez's policy. Hernandez-Torres is still listed in Travis County Jail records.
Read Debate over ICE detainers
Moore won’t weigh in on the debate over Hernandez’s decision not to honor all ICE detainers, “I don't speak to the Sheriff's policies,” she says, adding, “whether she honors or does not honor an ICE detainer is her business. What's my business is to make sure that the defendant charged with a felony faces the charges in Travis County, Texas.”
But she does acknowledge the firestorm around the Sheriff’s policy has shined an even brighter light on what happens to suspects with detainer requests who are charged with violent crimes and crimes against children in Travis County. “The existence of an ICE detainer is in itself an indication of a flight risk and so now we are now paying attention to these cases where perhaps the bond is not set high enough to hold this defendant in jail.”
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The Travis County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that Sheriff Hernandez and DA Moore met on Wednesday afternoon to discuss ways to prevent suspects with an immigration request from being released. “The Sheriff has agreed to give us a list everyday of any one of the felony charges that we need a detainer request,” Moore says adding, “we can take that list. Pull up our records and check the cases that are the highest concern to us and make an assessment to see if we should ask the court to increase bail.”