An illegal immigrant who fatally struck a Benedictine nun while driving drunk was found guilty in Prince William County on Monday of felony murder — a case that sparked outrage in a county at the forefront of debates on local enforcement of federal immigration laws.
Carlos A. Martinelly Montano, 24, faces up to 70 years in prison when he is sentenced Feb. 3 on the murder charge and a host of lesser related charges to which he pleaded guilty earlier in the day.
The charges stemmed from an Aug. 1, 2010, crash in which Martinelly Montano struck a car carrying Sister Denise Mosier, 66, as she was traveling to a retreat at the Benedictine Monastery in Bristow, Va.
Martinelly Montano, who entered the country illegally with his family from Bolivia in 1996, had twice been convicted on drunken-driving charges before the accident. After the second conviction in 2008, he was released by the county into the custody of the Department of Homeland Security and was awaiting a deportation hearing when the crash occurred.
Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chairman Corey A. Stewart, who at the time of the incident accused President Obama and Congress of having “blood on their hands,” said Monday that the case emphasizes the continued need for strong illegal-immigration-enforcement laws.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “What I don’t want people to think is, ‘Well, we got this one,’ and the issue is resolved. It’s not. This is just a small, one-man example of the dangerous illegal aliens in America who are released by the federal government instead of deported.”
Prince William County Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul B. Ebert called it a “tragic case all around.”
Mr. Ebert said he could remember cases against illegal immigrants in which charges were dropped on the condition that the accused be deported — only to have them return soon afterward.
“I don’t concern myself with the immigration status anymore,” he said. “We have to enforce the laws whether they’re illegal immigrants or not.”
Martinelly Montano’s attorneys disputed that their client should be characterized as an illegal immigrant, saying that at the time of the crash he carried a valid work permit.
Martinelly Montano had used the document when applying for an identification card.
In September 2010, shortly after the accident, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell ordered the state Department of Motor Vehicles to stop accepting an Employment Authorization Document, or work permit, as proof of legal status.
A Homeland Security Department investigation into the Martinelly Montano case determined that the Justice Department several times had delayed deportation hearings, even as he had several minor run-ins with the law in 2009 and 2010 that were not reported to the Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Martinelly Montano on Monday morning pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, two counts of maiming as a result of driving while intoxicated, driving on a revoked license and a third drunken-driving charge within five years.
He opted for a non-jury trial on the murder charge, and both prosecution and defense attorneys said they thought it was the first time a drunken-driving fatality was prosecuted under state murder laws.View Entire Story
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David Sherfinski covers politics for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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