I thought this was an ironic follow-up to Monday’s blog. It involves a former official for the US Department of Homeland Security. She was just convicted in Boston of encouraging her illegal immigrant housekeeper to remain in the country.
She is Lorraine H., 52, (hereinafter, the “Defendant”). She had been Boston’s port director for Customs and Border Protection. The guilty finding was apparently a shock to both the Defendant and her attorney.
According to news accounts, her only comment was, “I’m stunned” .
Her lawyer’s comment was “I’m sick”.
The case carries an important message that we do not discuss that often on the Boston Criminal Lawyer Blog.
At trial, the Defendant told jurors that she did not believe she had done anything wrong. “I didn’t think we had the authority to ask her if she was legal,” she testified. She further testified that she did not know that her housekeeper was illegal.
The housekeeper testified that she had told the Defendant she had come from Brazil, without a visa, seven years earlier.
Meanwhile, some of the Defendant’s neighbors were not quite as unaware of said status.
After learning in early 2008 that the Defendant had employed the housekeeper, a neighbor reported her to superiors, triggering an internal affairs investigation that led to the Defendant’s indictment.
At the request of federal agents, the loyal cleaner apparently showed up at the Defendant’s home in September, 2008, wearing a hidden body recorder and asked for help with an immigration issue.
“Wow,” the Defendant is heard saying on the recording. “You can’t leave. Don’t leave . . . ‘Cause once you leave, you will never come back.”
It is not a crime to hire an illegal immigrant to perform occasional domestic work. However, it is a felony to encourage or entice that person to stay in the United States.
Sentencing is set for June 1st. The potential sentence? Incarceration.
Whatever you think of the Defendant’s culpability, there are a few important points to take from today’s blog.
Many of you already know that ignorance of the law is not a defense. In other words, if I break the law, and claim that I was not aware that the law was even in existence, I am still liable for breaking that law.
That’s right, even if I am believed in my claim.
There is also a legal theory called “willful blindness” which many prosecutors like to invoke. This is particularly true in federal matters.
The idea behind willful blindness is that one cannot escape criminal liability simply by “turning his head” when it is evident that a crime is being committed and that he is, perhaps previously unknowingly, aiding that crime.
I once handled a case in which my client was accused of renting a space to people whom he should have known were drug traffickers. Under the theory, he was lumped into the alleged drug conspiracy. Fortunately, my client’s experienced attorney accomplished a victory and got his case dismissed mid-trial. However, not everybody is so lucky.
What a person knew or should have known is often a subjective thing and most prosecutors assume guilty motives quite quickly.
Today’s blog should also not be considered a signal that it has suddenly become legal to knowingly hire illegal workers. People are prosecuted for that all the time.
To be succinct, the message is to be careful. Do not assume that, simply because you are not involved in the obvious illegal act, you cannot be prosecuted.
Please note that in this case, the illegal housekeeper became an agent of the prosecution to, arguably, entrap her boss.
Gee, I wonder upon whose soil she is today…?
Yes, people make deals. Deals that can turn friends against each other. Deals that can even produce lies which investigators will accept as truths, albeit unknowingly.
Or does that bring us back to the “willful blindness” issue again?
At any rate, be careful. If you have a matter in which you are concerned that your actions could be under investigation, please do not hesitate to contact me at 617-492-3000.
For the full story upon which today’s blog is based, please go to http://www.globalvisas.com/news/ex_us_immigration_official_could_face_jail2201.html