Human rights groups in Montana say a Gallatin County detention center is illegally holding a man at the behest of the federal government. Arturo Valerio-Gonzales was arrested earlier this year in Four Corners on a misdemeanor sexual assault charge.
While he plead not guilty and is scheduled to go on trial next month, Valerio-Gonzales has spent the past five months in jail.
“Our position is that he is being held illegally,” says Alex Rate, the legal director for ACLU Montana.
He says on the day Valerio-Gonzales was arrested, U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, also known as ICE, imposed a detainer -- which holds someone in jail for up to 48 hours -- so they could determine whether or not he had entered the country illegally.
"Essentially what’s happened is that he’s been rearrested as a result of the ICE detainer. And in Montana, the authority to arrest lies exclusively in statute, and so there is no probable cause to support the ICE detainer that was issued -- he’s being held simply on a suspicion that he may be here unlawfully,” Rate says.
If Valerio-Gonzales had posted bail during that 48 hour detainer, Gallatin County says he would be released into ICE custody. So he didn’t, and thus, stayed in jail.
In a writ of habeas corpus filed last week, Valerio-Gonzales’s defense lawyers asked the Montana Supreme Court to release their client from jail.
According to the ACLU, the U.S. Department of Justice filed documents this week supporting Valerio-Gonzales’ detention, saying he is a Mexican national living in the U.S. illegally.
Valerio-Gonzales was initially arrested in June for allegedly groping a woman at a gas station in Four Corners.