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Man's sentencing clears way for another's release

June 17, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - An illegal alien was sentenced Wednesday in Franklin County Court to state prison for stabbing another man, clearing the way for the release of another illegal alien being held as a material witness in the case.

Paulino Zarate Luna, 36, no fixed address, was sentenced by Judge John R. Walker to from nine months to three years in prison for aggravated assault. He pleaded guilty to the charge on May 10. In exchange for the plea, charges of attempted murder, simple assault and public drunkenness were dismissed, along with another aggravated assault charge, court records state.

Luna was charged Jan. 10 in the stabbing of Roberto Morales, another illegal alien, in Washington Township, according to the affidavit of probable cause. Morales was stabbed five times, but "made a rather speedy and full recovery," according to Assistant District Attorney Angela Krom, who was the primary prosecutor in the case.

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Krom said the victim's recovery was one reason the prosecution agreed to allow Luna to plead to aggravated assault.

"We were going to have difficulty establishing a specific intent to kill," she said.

Luna's conviction and sentencing may soon result in the release of Victor Luna Delgado, no fixed address, who was being held as a material witness in the case. He was an apparent witness to the stabbing, but the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is holding him on a detainer for deportation to Mexico, said Public Defender Michael Toms, whose office represented him.

Although not charged in the stabbing, Delgado is being held as a material witness on $750,000 bond set by Judge Douglas W. Herman earlier this year.

The material witness statute allows prosecutors to seek bond or detention for any witness they believe is likely to otherwise be unwilling or unavailable to testify, Krom said. Delgado had to be held as a material witness because of the deportation order, she said.

"It's not that the guy wasn't going to be willing. He was going to be gone," Krom said.

"We're not always representing guilty people. We were representing someone who was in jail for doing nothing," Toms said.

The district attorney's office will now have to file a petition to have a judge drop Delgado's bail, or his office would file a petition asking the court to do so, Toms said.

"This is, literally, one of those situations that could happen to any one of us," Toms said of the material witness statute.

Toms said Delgado, who is being held in York (Pa.) County Prison, could have given a video deposition instead of being held in jail for six months. He said it was unclear, however, whether that would have helped him get out of prison sooner.

Both Luna and Delgado soon could be back in Mexico. Delgado could be deported once his bail is dropped and Luna has already spent six months behind bars.

"It is my belief he will be deported upon parole," Krom said of Luna.

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