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“Big drug dealer” or damaged veteran in dire need of a break?

Friday, Apr 14, 2017

* AP

The Illinois Prisoner Review Board is being asked to intervene on behalf of an Army veteran with a green card who faces deportation because of a 2008 drug conviction.

Advocates for Miguel Perez Jr. want the board to recommend that Gov. Bruce Rauner issue a pardon. They hope the Department of Homeland Security will then grant the 38-year-old Perez citizenship retroactively from when he joined the military in 2001.

Perez served two tours in Afghanistan. He’s being held a Wisconsin detention center where he awaits deportation to Mexico.

Perez pleaded guilty to a drug charge for handing a laptop case containing cocaine to an undercover officer. He served half of a 15-year prison sentence.

The Cook County State’s Attorney, who’s about as far from a Trump-loving, immigrant-bashing politico as you can get, opposes clemency.

* More background and why the state’s attorney is opposed to the pardon

Perez arrived in the country at age 11. Despite being a green card holder and serving two tours in Afghanistan, the Chicago resident never applied for citizenship. So when Perez was convicted of selling drugs after he left the Army, he was targeted for deportation.

At Thursday’s hearing, a representative for the state’s attorney said they opposed forgiving Perez’s crime and cited the amount of cocaine that Perez sold which was 4.4 pounds.

A spokesperson for veterans blamed PTSD for Perez’s drug addiction.

“Mr. Perez was exposed to a lot of trauma that aggravated any addiction he had,” Carlos Luna, president of Veterans Rebuilding Community, Inc., said.

Whew, that’s a lot of cocaine.

* The Tribune has more

“We cannot lose track of the specific facts of this case, which is why we are opposing executive clemency,” assistant Cook County State’s Attorney Peter Goutos told the review board Thursday. “We must hold the big drug dealers accountable.”

While Perez was convicted of delivering less than 100 grams of cocaine, Goutos said he was arrested for delivering much more and received a reduced sentence after a plea deal. Goutos also pointed out that Perez was given a general discharge from the military after a drug infraction and was arrested for misdemeanor cannabis possession as a teenager. […]

After returning to Chicago after his military service, he sought treatment at the Veterans Affairs hospital in Maywood, where doctors diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder. He was supposed to return for more tests to determine whether he also had a traumatic brain injury. But the hours of waiting and slow progress took its toll.

In the meantime, he reconnected with a childhood friend who provided free drugs and alcohol. On the night of Nov. 26, 2008, while with that friend, Perez handed a laptop case containing cocaine to an undercover officer. Perez pleaded guilty to the drug charge and served half of a 15-year prison sentence.

And soon his fate could be in Gov. Rauner’s hands. The governor has done his best to distance himself from the president’s stances on immigration. Actually, he’s done his best to distance himself from the president, period. He’s also demonstrated time and time again that he favors second chances and reduced penalties for non-violent criminals. He’s a politician, so that alone guarantees that Perez’s military service in a theater of war is an issue.

But busted cold handing 4.4 pounds of cocaine to a cop is a tough one for any governor.

* And it may not matter either way

In a statement released Thursday, the state’s attorney’s office said its opposition to a pardon did not equate to support for Perez’s deportation. His immigration proceedings are a separate matter.

“Regardless of the outcome of Mr. Perez’s clemency hearing, he is still subject to removal by the federal government,” the statement said. “Mr. Perez’s case is an unfortunate reminder of the need for immigration reform, particularly when it comes to veterans who have served our country.”

- Posted by Rich Miller        

17 Comments
  1. - Southside Markie - Friday, Apr 14, 17 @ 9:55 am:

    Agreed that this is a tough one. But should a person who has done his time be punished forever? And when was the last time the Cook County State’s Attorney supported a clemency petition?


  2. - Cubs in '16 - Friday, Apr 14, 17 @ 10:07 am:

    I can buy the argument that PTSD contributed to Mr. Perez, Jr.’s addiction but that doesn’t excuse or explain away drug dealing. Doesn’t seem to me there are enough extenuating circumstances in this case to justify a pardon.


  3. - DuPage Saint - Friday, Apr 14, 17 @ 10:09 am:

    I doubt any states attorney has ever supported a clemency petition. they object to pardons when a person has been cleared by DNA. They take an oath to do justice not to persecute. That being said lots of coke however one time offense did his time vet PTS some extenuating circumstances Not like a repeat felon gang banger with no remorse


  4. - Collinsville Kevin - Friday, Apr 14, 17 @ 10:18 am:

    I say give the guy a break!


  5. - Juice - Friday, Apr 14, 17 @ 10:19 am:

    Rich, what are you basing this off of?

    “He’s also demonstrated time and time again that he favors second chances and reduced penalties for non-violent criminals. ”

    The Governor watered down the sentencing reforms that Raoul just passed in the Senate, even though those reforms came out of his own highly touted commission.

    And have you seen the Governor’s record on clemency, the very definition of giving someone a second chance?

    He’s been given all the right talking points, but his actual actions hardly scream criminal justice reformer.


  6. - BK Bro - Friday, Apr 14, 17 @ 11:10 am:

    “Served half of a 15 year prison sentence.”

    Even at half, that is some serious prison time.

    Also, it seems odd that the Army didn’t notice or hold him up over his lack of paperwork when he joined. I’m kind of a assuming that the military would do some kind of background check before people enlist?


  7. - 51st ward - Friday, Apr 14, 17 @ 11:13 am:

    he is a convicted felon that sold cocaine. This one seems to be easy dont break the law. I have no interest in Trumps vilifying immigrants but deporting a convicted felon is the law.


  8. - Timmeh - Friday, Apr 14, 17 @ 11:45 am:

    “They hope the Department of Homeland Security will then grant the 38-year-old Perez citizenship retroactively from when he joined the military in 2001. … Perez served two tours in Afghanistan.”

    Doing two tours in a war zone should allow people to become a citizen upon request.


  9. - @misterjayem - Friday, Apr 14, 17 @ 11:56 am:

    “This one seems to be easy dont break the law.”

    This is an argument against EVER offering mercy to someone convicted of a crime. If that’s your position, fine.

    But recognize that ‘no mercy’ is your position.

    – MrJM


  10. - Illinois O'Malley - Friday, Apr 14, 17 @ 11:59 am:

    Interesting to note he served 7 years while the United doctor was guilty of 6 felonies for drug dealing got probation, and got medical license back.


  11. - Freezeup - Friday, Apr 14, 17 @ 12:36 pm:

    4.4 pounds is 2 kilos. Roughly 70 ounces or 2000 grams. That amount would likely be doubled by the next step in the chain before it gets to street level dealers.

    2 kilos is a wholesale amount. In 2008 the wholesale cost was around $21,000 per kilo in Chicago. It has been as high as $28,000 in the past few years.

    Yes, this may have been his first offense but usually dealers don’t start with wholesale amounts. It also suggests that he had a rather solid supply connection. His supplier was likely cartel connected or one step from cartel connected.

    The cocaine trade is strongly associated with weapons and violence. This combat trained vet sure seemed to be working his way into at least a mid level position. As unfortunate as it may be, my opinion is that this “one” misdeed has erased a lifetime of good deeds.


  12. - SOIL M - Friday, Apr 14, 17 @ 12:59 pm:

    I agree this is a tough one. But if we break it down, it seems to me like a couple different issues. A LEGAL Immigrant who served in the Military during war time should receive citizenship. After that part of his life, he made a bad choice and got caught distributing illegal drugs. So in my opinion, give him citizenship based on his legal status and military service, and act on his clemency based on how any other citizen would be treated given the circumstances.


  13. - NoGifts - Friday, Apr 14, 17 @ 1:04 pm:

    States Attorneys always oppose clemency. They normally oppose releasing people who are shown to be innocent too! No surprise here, but do we have any drug treatment programs left in the state open to help him? BTW it can both be true that he is a veteran needing help and a break, and a drug dealer.


  14. - FormerParatrooper - Friday, Apr 14, 17 @ 1:19 pm:

    When he enlisted he gad a background check. Sounds like he received a waiver to enlist because of his prior.

    He also had the option to apply for citizenship while he was in service. He could also have applied after service. His abity to use the VA tells me his discharge was not a bad conduct discharge so he would have been eligible.

    With this conviction I believe he no longer has the option of citizenship. And while his prior service can be considered, he did not apply for citizenship when he was able so retroactively granting ciizenship would not be proper. Personal responsibility, or in his case the lack of, is not the fault of anyone but him.


  15. - Shanks - Friday, Apr 14, 17 @ 3:21 pm:

    I’m all for control of our borders and enforcing laws that deport illegal aliens particularly those that commit crimes…but how in the world do we let let a person enlist in our military and they aren’t granted citizenship?

    Both sides of the aisle agree that immigrant veterans should be streamlined into citizenship, as a small thanks and reward for their service.


  16. - NoGifts - Friday, Apr 14, 17 @ 3:26 pm:

    Granting citizenship to people who enlist is a bad policy. Do you really want people signing up just because it’s the only way to become a citizen?


  17. - Shanks - Friday, Apr 14, 17 @ 4:07 pm:

    @NoGifts

    How is it bad policy?! If we allow immigrants to enlist, we should let them be granted citizenship after honorable discharge, it’s the least our country can do, instead of saying thanks and deporting them after they swear to defend and uphold our constitution.

    I doubt it would come to a point where the military would be taking in vast amounts of immigrants to fill the ranks, even so, they can limit the amount. But it should be an option for one who actually wants to be an American.


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