Dramatic developments in trial stemming from O'Neill immigration raids

Federal building in Lincoln where trial is underway (Photo by Fred Knapp, NET News)
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November 7, 2019 - 9:25pm

A key witness took the stand Thursday in the trial stemming from last year's immigration raids in O'Neill, Nebraska. NET News' Jack Williams interviewed reporter Fred Knapp about the developments.

Fred, who was this witness?

It was Juan Pablo Sanchez Delgado, who the government says was central to the conspiracy to supply immigrants who were in the country illegally to agricultural operations in and around O'Neill. Those included tomato processing, potato processing, hog operations, and a cattle feed lot. More than 100 workers were arrested for immigration violations. But this trial is of three people who allegedly conspired with Sanchez Delgado to harbor people illegally.

What was the atmosphere like in the courtroom?

Well, just before Sanchez Delgado testified, Judge John Gerrard announced he had banned two people from the courthouse for making threats -- threats that prosecutor Leslie Woods said included death threats against prosecution witnesses. Then Sanchez Delgado was led into testify. Before the raids on August 8, 2018 he was the owner of several staffing companies, as well as a restaurant and a grocery store in O'Neill and well known in the community. Thursday he was in shackles wearing an orange Saline County Jail jumpsuit.

What did he say in his testimony?

Well, Sanchez Delgado, who's already pled guilty but hasn't yet been sentenced, said he was born in Chihuahua, Mexico and came to the US illegally 20 years ago. He worked construction in Omaha, then moved to O'Neill about 15 years ago where he opened the grocery store and with his wife, Magdalena, who was also here illegally and previously deported, opened a restaurant.

And what did he say about the people charged with conspiring with him?

He said one of them, John Good, had applied for a liquor license for the restaurant because Sanchez Delgado thought as a non-citizen, he couldn't get one. Good has nothing to do with the staffing companies apparently. On the license application, Good said he would work 15 to 20 hours a week in the restaurant. Sanchez Delgado said Good didn't do that, but was also never paid. Prosecutors also played a tape of a wiretapped phone call where Good asked Sanchez Delgado if he'd heard about a possible immigration raid coming up, and that if he did he could say the restaurant was closed for vacation. Sanchez Delgado said he bought three houses in Las Vegas with the proceeds from supplying workers to the various companies. He said another defendant, John Glidden, knew that the workers he was supplying to a hog operation Glidden managed were in the country illegally. And he said a third defendant, Mayra Jimenez, asked him to start a staffing company to supply workers to the tomato plant.

Did all this testimony go unchallenged?

No. When Sanchez Delgado started talking about starting the staffing company, he said that Mayra Jimenez's role in asking for that was merely to serve as a translator for another official from the plant. Defense lawyer Dave Domina immediately objected, pointing out that that official had not been charged, and saying prosecutors had not told defense lawyers about her -- a charge prosecutor Woods said was not true. Domina asked Gerrard to declare a mistrial, something Gerrard ruled was premature, but he said he could consider later.

So what's next?

Well, defense lawyers still need to finish cross examining Sanchez Delgado, and then we may hear from the defendants themselves.

So are things moving around, moving along, as you expected? Is this going to be done by the end of this week or maybe early next week?

Well, that was the original plan. But then Judge Gerrard said the other day, that at the rate they were going, it could take until Thanksgiving or even Christmas. So he's urged people to speed things up, and they seem to be trying to do that.

Previous stories:

Trial related to O'Neill immigration raids gets underway

ICE official says deportations weren't purpose of raids

Mixed emotions in O'Neill on raids' anniversary

One month after raids, views in  O'Neill divided

Immigration raids hit O'Neill




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