LINCOLN — One defendant was dismissed from a complex trial Wednesday over an alleged conspiracy that led to one of the state’s largest immigration raids.
John Good, an Atkinson businessman, had been accused of money laundering and two charges related to harboring illegal immigrants in connection with a staffing agency established in O’Neill to provide undocumented workers to hog confinements, a tomato greenhouse, a potato packing facility and other farm-related businesses.
But on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge John Gerrard dismissed the money laundering charge against Good, ruling that federal prosecutors had failed to provide evidence of that crime. The judge ordered a mistrial on the two other charges against Good, ruling that testimony against two other defendants had made it impossible for Good to receive a fair trial.
Good, who could be retried, then walked out of the federal courtroom. He and two other O’Neill-area residents have been the subject of an eight-day trial over charges that they helped Juan Pablo Sanchez-Delgado and his family earn millions by providing illegal workers and running an O’Neill restaurant.
“He’s really relieved about the money laundering charge,” said Good’s attorney, Dave Domina of Omaha. That, he said, was the most serious of the three charges Good faced.
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Domina added that his client has a “really, really strong case” against the other two charges, that he harbored illegal immigrants and conspired with Sanchez-Delgado to harbor them, if federal prosecutors decide to retry him.
Mike Norris, a U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman, said Wednesday that it would be determined later whether Good will be retried.
Good and two others were among 130 people detained following an Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid in August of 2018 that involved 400 law enforcement officers and touched operations as far away as Las Vegas and Minnesota.
The trio were the only three to contest charges against them, leading to a complicated trial, with three defendants being tried for essentially three separate conspiracies. Jurors have been constantly warned that testimony being presented about one of the conspiracies should not be considered in judging the guilt or innocence of those involved in the other conspiracies.
The trial for the two remaining defendants, John Glidden, a manager of hog confinements, and Mayra Jimenez, a secretary at a massive tomato greenhouse in O’Neill, is expected to conclude on Friday.
Sanchez-Delgado has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing. He faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for his role.
Glidden is accused of lining up illegal workers and providing housing for them. During the trial, he was heard on a wiretapped phone conversation discussing how one of the workers supplied by Sanchez-Delgado had just received his paperwork to become “legal.”
Jimenez, the tomato greenhouse secretary, is charged with knowingly obtaining illegal workers for that business. Sanchez-Delgado testified that she had asked him to set up a staffing agency as a “middleman” because of a labor shortage in the area. He testified that she was translating the request from another tomato plant worker.
Domina pointed out more that once during the trial that Good had nothing to do with providing or obtaining illegal workers. The defense attorney also said that there were no bank records showing that his client profited from helping Sanchez-Delgado.
Good had sold a home to Sanchez-Delgado, financing the purchase for him and then keeping his name on the deed (rather than Sanchez-Delgado’s), according to court testimony, which prosecutors claimed helped hide the illegal status of Sanchez-Delgado. Good also obtained a liquor license for an O’Neill restaurant run by Sanchez-Delgado, who, because he was in the country illegally, could not obtain one.
Domina had said his client performed “acts of kindness” for Sanchez-Delgado but didn’t know he and his wife were in the country illegally. The entire O’Neill community, Domina maintained, considered Sanchez-Delgado and his wife legal residents. Domina filed a motion for a mistrial, or a dismissal of charges, on Wednesday, maintaining the prosecutors had failed to show that Good was part of any conspiracy.
After Judge Gerrard ordered a mistrial for Good, attorneys for Glidden and Jimenez also moved for mistrials for their clients. But the judge rejected the requests.