For all the criticism of State District Judge Michael Vigil’s sentencing habits that often lean toward giving offenders every opportunity to rehabilitate themselves and hopefully not be a drain on the taxpayers by serving lengthy prison sentences, he has a well-established history of firm sentences for sex offenders.
One recent maximum sentence (3 years for criminal sexual penetration) by Vigil of Mexican national Marcial Zapata drew a nice point/counterpoint debate in Sunday’s Letters to the Editor section of The New Mexican debating whether it is right for a man to serve three years in a U.S. prison, on the U.S. taxpayer’s dime, only to be deported back to Mexico the day his sentence is over.
I have linked the letters in this blog and also copy and pasted the full text of the letters at the bottom of this blog. Here are some portions of those letters:
From the letter in support of Vigil’s sentence from Nia Aubrey of Santa Fe:
While it would have been easy to send the illegal immigrant back to Mexico on the next bus rather than sentence him to jail time after his conviction, Vigil showed concern for the women of Mexico who would likely have been similarly assaulted
And from the letter in opposition to Vigil’s sentence from Jim Bohlander of Santa Fe:
He was tried, convicted and sentenced to three years in jail, and now the taxpayers of Santa Fe are on the hook for the cost of the trial and for the costs of incarceration? Why is this person not being deported?
Zapata, a self-described sobador (similar, but not identical to a massage therapist) who was convicted of raping with his fingers a client during a massage session in August, telling the woman he was trying to fix her “dropped uterus” to relieve her back pain. He and his family have lived for many years in Santa Fe, undocumented and prior to this event, without a criminal conviction.
Last week when Vigil sentenced Zapata, a sentence the Mexican national will have to serve in a New Mexico prison prior to his deportation to Mexico, the judge made it clear why he did it:
“Your refusal to accept responsibility to me indicates that you do not feel you did anything wrong and therefore you are at risk for reoffending,” Vigil told Zapata at the sentencing hearing.
He later told me:
“I have to be concerned for the women of Mexico. If he doesn’t even see what he did was wrong, he’ll do it again, so I needed to make sure he was locked up for as long as I could lock him up so he doesn’t go do it again.”
So which side is right? Should convicted criminals serve their time before deportation? Does the level of the crime matter? In this case, he Zapata was convicted of rape. Does that matter in deciding whether he should serve his time here?
For the record Zapata had already been in federal custody and a wrote of habeas corpus was needed to bring the man back from El Paso, Texas, where he was awaiting deportation processing, to Santa Fe to stand trial.
Here are a couple of links to stories and the Letters to the Editor section in Sunday’s New Mexican:
- May 22: Letters to the Editor
- May 18: ‘Sobador’ gets 3 years in sex assault
- May 10: Mexican folk healer guilty of sex assault during massage
- Aug. 12: Woman says massage led to sexual assault
And here is the text of both of Sunday’s letters:
Regarding the May 19 article, “Sobador gets 3 years in sex assault”: Thanks to state District Judge Michael Vigil for having the courage and the conviction to at least try to end the criminal behavior of the self-proclaimed healer Marcial Zapata.
While it would have been easy to send the illegal immigrant back to Mexico on the next bus rather than sentence him to jail time after his conviction, Vigil showed concern for the women of Mexico who would likely have been similarly assaulted: “I have to be concerned for the women of Mexico,” Vigil explained. “If (Zapata) doesn’t even see what he did was wrong, he’ll do it again, so I needed to make sure he was locked up …”
Few people have that kind of compassion for those who live outside of our country. But what hurts one woman, or one person, affects us all.
— Nia Aubrey, Santa Fe
• • • • •
Now wait a minute here. An admitted and verified illegal immigrant was charged with sexual assault. He was tried, convicted and sentenced to three years in jail, and now the taxpayers of Santa Fe are on the hook for the cost of the trial and for the costs of incarceration?
Why is this person not being deported? Where is the federal immigration service? Where is immigration law being enforced here? In this case, there is “no law west of the Pecos.” Wonder if he had a New Mexico drivers license also?
— Jim Bohlander, Santa Fe