Crash suspect wasn't deemed a flight risk

Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 6, 2011

An undocumented immigrant who allegedly killed a nun while driving drunk in Prince William County had been released by immigration authorities after two other convictions because he had demonstrated that he was not a flight risk, according to a Department of Homeland Security report released Friday.

Carlos A. Martinelly-Montano, a Bolivian who entered the United States with his family as a child in 1996, had two prior convictions for driving under the influence of alcohol, as well as a string of other encounters with police, before the Aug. 1 accident last year.

After Martinelly-Montano was released by authorities in October 2008, immigration courts twice postponed ruling on whether he should be deported or be eligible for residency. The accident that killed Jeanette M. Mosier, 66, occurred weeks before the court had rescheduled a hearing.

The nun's death outraged Virginia officials and fueled an already heated national immigration debate. After the crash, the state stopped allowing immigrants to obtain driver's licenses by using work permit cards as proof of legal residence.

Martinelly-Montano's immigration status came to the attention of police in December 2007, when he was convicted for drunken driving in Prince William. In October 2008, he was again booked for driving under the influence.

Immigration authorities determined at the time that he was an undocumented immigrant and began deportation proceedings, even as he was petitioning the court to legalize his status.

As Martinelly-Montano awaited a hearing, authorities fitted him with a Global Positioning System device and released him.

The tracking devices, used widely in lieu of detention, were needed in part because of a lack of detention space, the report said. Martinelly-Montano regularly showed up for court hearings and other procedural matters.

In following months, however, Martinelly-Montano was stopped by police - for driving without a license in Fairfax County in March 2009 and for driving recklessly in Manassas Park in April 2009 - but police and immigration authorities did not communicate with one another about what each knew, the report said.

According to the report, had that communication taken place and had policies now in place been enacted earlier, Martinelly-Montano probably would have been detained after he served two weeks in jail in late April and early May 2009 for the 2008 DUI conviction.

Given his record of showing up for court proceedings, immigration authorities not only released him in May 2009, but they "did not impose the highest form" of monitoring at their disposal, the report says. It does not specify whether the tracking device was removed.

The report says Martinelly-Montano complied with the terms of his release and regularly reported to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.

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