BOISE – Idaho congressman Walt Minnick has come out with another hard-hitting TV ad about GOP rival Raul Labrador, this one focusing on a federal drug case involving an illegal immigrant that Labrador handled as an attorney in 2001.
Minnick says that after Labrador got his client released pending trial, the man was deported to Mexico, thus avoiding facing the charges.
“Carlos Lopez didn’t face justice,” the ad says. “The U.S. attorney’s office questioned Raul Labrador’s ethics, claiming that he had a ‘specific and pre-existing plan’ to help Carlos flee to Mexico to avoid the charges. He was later caught after sneaking across the border again.”
Labrador called the ad “despicable.”
“I was not charged with any wrongdoing,” he said. “The charge is baseless, and it is completely dishonest.”
After Labrador argued for his client, Carlos Araiza Lopez, to be released with the requirement that he stay in Idaho pending trial, Lopez was deported to Mexico by federal authorities; Labrador then argued the charges against him should be dropped, but the court disagreed.
The Minnick campaign pointed to federal court documents in which the U.S. attorney’s office argued strongly against dropping the charges, saying, “What the Government sees is an attorney’s specific and pre-existing plan to have his client released from this Court on standard conditions and then have him deported to Mexico so as to avoid federal charges, specifically what the United States warned the Magistrate Court to guard against in releasing him.”
Labrador said, “The court released him and he went into the custody of immigration. Immigration deported him.”
John Foster, spokesman for Minnick’s campaign, said, “What the U.S. attorney’s office wrote in its response to the motion was very surprising and we thought something that people needed to know.”
Labrador said Lopez was apprehended three years later attempting to re-enter the country, and then was convicted on charges unrelated to the original drug case.
Labrador called a press conference Thursday with Kent Nygaard, the retired immigration service special agent who handled the Lopez case and a Labrador supporter. Nygaard said there were 26 defendants in the drug case, and all of their defense attorneys argued for their clients to be released pending trial. Labrador, he said, was just doing his job.