ICE, Multnomah Co spar over release of Sergio Martinez

Sergio Jose Martinez had been deported an estimated 20 times

Sergio Jose Martinez in court on July 26, 2017. (KOIN)
Sergio Jose Martinez in court on July 26, 2017. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Immigration officials say despite having a detainer placed on “serial immigration violator” Sergio Jose Martinez, Multnomah County released him back into the community where he later attacked two women.

However, Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese pushed back and said ICE had not sent a criminal warrant, which would have allowed the sheriff’s office to keep him in jail.

Martinez, 31, was arrested July 24 by the Portland Police Bureau. Detectives believe Martinez is responsible for attacking two women in NE Portland during separate incidents. First, a 65-year-old woman was physically and sexually attacked near NE 17th Avenue and Irving Street. A second attack happened several hours later near NE 21st Avenue and Halsey Street.

KOIN 6 News first reported that Martinez had been deported from the United States to Mexico an estimated 20 times, according to state court records.

“Department of Homeland Security databases indicate Mr. Martinez is a serial immigration violator who has been removed from the United States no less than 13 times since 2008,” the agency said in a statement on Friday. “Relevant databases also indicate Mr. Martinez has a lengthy criminal history spanning three states, that includes numerous prior convictions for crimes including felony attempted battery, felony burglary, and felony illegal re-entry after removal.”

KOIN 6 News also first reported that Martinez had been arrested 13 times in Portland within the last decade.

Officials confirmed that ICE “last encountered” Martinez on December 7, 2016, at the Multnomah County Detention Center and lodged an immigration detainer against him at that time requesting that the agency be notified prior to his release.

“However, despite the detainer, local authorities released Mr. Martinez back into the community the following day without providing any notification to ICE,” the agency said. “Immigration detainers serve as a legally-authorized request, upon which a law enforcement agency may rely, to continue to maintain custody of an alien for up to 48 hours so that ICE may assume custody for removal purposes.”

Multnomah County responds

In 2014, then-Multnomah County Sheriff Daniel Staton issued a directive stating, “Department of Homeland Security Immigration (ICE) Detainer Form I-247 is no longer valid for placement of a “Hold” on Multnomah County inmates.”

Multnomah County issued a statement after Staton’s decision that read, in part, “These 48-hour holds, called I-247 detainers, keep people in jail even after they have been cleared of their booking charges and are normally enforced no matter the allegation.

As KOIN 6 News previously reported, current Sheriff Mike Reese wrote in September 2016 the sheriff’s office “is not responsible for enforcing federal immigration policy,” adding, “…It is vital community members feel comfortable calling 911 to report crimes and to participate as witnesses and victims in our local system, without fear of that information being shared with ICE.”

Monday afternoon, Reese released a statement that clearly stated the blame for Martinez’s release lies squarely with ICE:

Prior to his release, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials had not sent a criminal warrant, signed by a judge, allowing MCSO to hold the defendant in jail. Instead, they processed a civil detainer, which they know cannot be legally used in Oregon.

This defendant has a lengthy criminal history. He has been booked into Multnomah County Jail on nine separate occasions since 2008. Most recently, he was released from Multnomah County on July 17, 2017, after serving 31 days in custody. He was released consistent with the orders of the court. No federal or state criminal warrants were present at the time he left our custody.

MCSO has no authority in deportation or issues surrounding illegal reentry into the United States. MCSO holds in custody anyone who has been alleged to have committed a criminal act, or for whom a criminal warrant has been issued, until all charges have been properly adjudicated. MCSO does not hold anyone in custody for civil matters, as per federal and state law. …

ICE officials have the ability to ask for a criminal warrant, signed by a federal judge, to keep defendants in custody. If this were to happen, Sheriffs in Oregon would cooperate with the federal criminal warrant until the charges were properly adjudicated. No such warrant was placed on this defendant prior to his release.”

The full policy for MCSO can be found on the agency’s website.

ICE official Virginia Kice wasted no time in her response and said ” the sheriff’s comments reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of the enforcement process.”

“…the cases of individuals being sought for removal are almost always handled through an administrative process as opposed to a criminal proceeding. The process doesn’t involve the issuance of a judicial arrest warrant, neither is there a legal requirement that ICE provide a judicial warrant to law enforcement agencies in order to receive notification about the impending release of a criminal alien.”

Reaction from neighbors in Northeast Portland

With a string of arsons and most recently a woman being sexually assaulted, neighbors in the Kerns area are uneasy and want to do something.

Neighbors gathered Monday to discuss the crimes their neighborhood has seen over the last month or so, which includes Martinez allegedly assaulting 2 women in one day, one of which in Northeast Portland.

Linda Safran moved to Portland from Baltimore and said she’s fed up with the neighborhood crime.

“I thought oh this looks just picture perfect here in Portland. Well, nothing is picture perfect,” Safran said.

At the meeting, neighbors came up with the idea of organizing a neighborhood watch as many of them are interested in doing something to feel safer in their homes.

Where is Sergio Martinez?

Martinez remains in jail with bail set at more than $2 million. A grand jury is reviewing the case against him and additional felony charges are expected. ICE has since placed another hold on Martinez.

ICE said in a statement, “depending on the alien’s criminal history, an alien who illegally reenters the United States, after having been previously removed, has committed a felony punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison.”

KOIN 6 News Reporter Cole Miller contributed to this report.