U.S. Attorney calls out sheriff after man in country illegally released twice

U.S. Attorney calls out sheriff after man in country illegally released twice

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — A man accused of causing a nine-hour standoff with police is in custody again after being released from the Mecklenburg County Detention Center – for a second time.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said they arrested Luis Pineda-Ancheta midday on Sunday after he was released from custody overnight without the agency being notified. According to ICE, Pineda-Ancheta is in the country illegally from Honduras.


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"ICE made the arrest of this person based on immigration status,” ICE spokesman Bryan Cox told Channel 9.

This is the second time in less than a month that Pineda-Ancheta has been released from custody after he posted bond.

"I think my job is public safety,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Murray said. “It's not to play politics. It's to do public safety."

Murray is the top Justice Department official in the Carolinas.

Pineda-Ancheta faces multiple assault charges and is accused of strangling a woman and threatening to kill her.

"I didn't want this individual getting out into the streets again,” Murray said. “Given the allegation, he's a serious threat to the community and certainly to the victim both times. So, to prevent a ‘three-peat,’ we had to go and intervene."

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department shut down an entire community off Sharonbrook Road last week during a nine-hour standoff while trying to serve arrest warrants on Pineda-Ancheta.

Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden was holding Pineda-Ancheta after his latest arrest but does not cooperate with the immigration detainer program known as 287(g).

"I don't really care about 287(g). I care about protecting this community," Murray said.

ICE said the agency should have been given a heads-up about his release.

"Simply let ICE know when you're releasing a public safety threat,” Cox said.

The criminal complaint filed in District Court on Tuesday that accuses Pineda-Ancheta of illegally reentering the country is a federal charge and doesn’t carry the same punch as state domestic-violence charges.

"There's the risk that he does his four to 10 months and then he gets deported, and that victim never gets the opportunity for justice," Murray said.

Murray said that McFadden is supposed to be a partner with federal law enforcement and that immigration officials could have picked up Pineda-Ancheta outside the county jail.

Pineda-Ancheta was not alone when he was arrested this weekend. ICE said the man he was with had a gun and was also in the country illegally.

ICE said the sheriff is letting politics get in the way of public safety.

"Our intent is not to make this an ‘us’ versus ‘them.' Our focus is on public safety and keeping people safe,” Cox said.

McFadden said on Monday that the feds should have issued a criminal arrest warrant in the case and not a voluntary detainer.

McFadden released the following statement in response on Monday:

"Luis Pineda-Ancheta was arrested on May 15, 2019 on multiple charges of misdemeanor domestic violence and felony larceny.  Upon fulfilling his court-ordered terms and conditions of release, including the payment of a $5,000 total bond, MCSO released Pineda-Ancheta on May 17th as required by law.  Regrettably, Pineda-Ancheta is alleged to have committed additional crimes of domestic violence, which led to a lengthy and dangerous stand-off with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police (CMPD) prior to his re-arrest on May 23, 2019.  I am grateful for my colleagues at CMPD who were able to end that stand-off without injury to themselves or others."

"Though upon his re-arrest the court increased Pineda-Ancheta’s total bond significantly, on June 1, 2019, he again fulfilled his court-ordered terms and conditions of release which also included electronic monitoring by CMPD.  MCSO is required by law to release from its custody any individual who has satisfied his bond and all court-ordered conditions of release.  MCSO does not determine whether any individual in its custody is granted a bond or, if so, the amount of the bond, whether the bond must be secured, or what terms and conditions (such as electronic monitoring) are required. These determinations are the sole responsibility of Mecklenburg County and Federal Judges and Magistrates."

"My decision that MCSO will no longer honor voluntary ICE administrative detainers is not the sole reason for Pineda-Ancheta’s releases on May 17th or on June 1st.  Different discretionary decisions of multiple stakeholders in the criminal justice system, including judicial and law enforcement (in particular ICE’s own discretion), must also be acknowledged and addressed by those who believe that Pineda-Ancheta should have been kept in custody and then placed directly into deportation proceedings. At the time of Pineda-Ancheta’s initial arrest on May 15, MCSO had no knowledge that he was previously deported in 2006. However, that information was readily available to ICE.  Furthermore, it is a federal felony to re-enter the United States after having been previously deported."

"Inexplicably, upon both above arrests, ICE chose to issue voluntary ICE administrative detainers on Pineda-Ancheta, knowing that it is against my policy to honor such detainers.  Based upon Pineda-Ancheta’s previous deportation, ICE could have but did not seek a criminal arrest warrant for Illegal Re-Entry.  The reasons for that decision have yet to be satisfactorily explained to me or to the public. MCSO will always honor a criminal warrant and hold any individual so charged in custody if and until that person has satisfied all court-ordered conditions of release.  It is my understanding that bonds for individuals charged with the federal felony of Illegal Re-Entry are a rarity in the Western District of North Carolina (Charlotte)."

"As of today’s, date, MCSO still does not have any information regarding current federal charges against Pineda-Ancheta or his current location."

The U.S. Attorney’s Office confirmed Pineda-Ancheta is now in its custody and has been transferred to Georgia.