A Phoenix judge dealt a surprise blow to the county attorney’s crusade to prosecute immigrants who pay coyotes to smuggle them into Arizona, reports the Arizona Republic. Using a rare court procedure, Judge Thomas O’Toole yesterday tossed out a jury’s guilty verdict and acquitted Aldolfo Guzman-Garcia, an undocumented immigrant who paid $700 to have a coyote bring him to Arizona. The judge said he did not believe there was sufficient evidence to show that Guzman-Garcia was part of a human-smuggling ring.
Prosecutors plan to appeal the case that County Attorney Andrew Thomas touted as a key victory in his quest to curb illegal immigration. Experts say the case shows how judges are struggling to interpret the law that went into effect last year. The ruling comes as a battle over Arizona’s human-smuggling law intensifies. Last month, immigrant advocates filed a federal lawsuit challenging Thomas’ interpretation of the law. Thomas has drawn political fire because the coyote law was initially created to prosecute human smugglers. Thomas is using it to prosecute undocumented immigrants who pay to be smuggled.