They have no problem putting hard working Americans or Indians for small amounts away for long periods of time. But illegal smugglers, they will just put on a bus and back across the border.
And the last person to comment on the article put Viva Mexico!http://www.azstarnet.com/sn/related/205019.php
Many pot seizures of below 500 lbs. go unprosecuted
By Josh Brodesky
arizona daily star
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 10.07.2007
The secret to smuggling pot across the border and never facing charges begins with keeping loads to less than 500 pounds.
There are exceptions to this rule — smugglers who are carrying guns or have past felonies will be federally prosecuted, for example. But each year countless pot seizures of less than 500 pounds aren't prosecuted. The drugs are seized by federal agents, but the smugglers walk because there is no one to take up the case.
The issue is one of resources — not enough prosecutors, not enough jails.
"It's a valid concern," said Arizona U.S. Attorney Daniel Knauss. "But I don't have the prosecutors to do all the cases."
In a perfect world, the U.S. Attorney's Office would prosecute the seizures. But an emphasis on immigration and a shortage of prosecutors lets smaller pot busts slip through the cracks.
The Tucson office, which covers Southeastern Arizona, is supposed to have 39 prosecutors including supervisors, but is staffed at 34. Over the last three years, when there were hiring freezes, the office usually operated six to eight attorneys short, Knauss said.
In an attempt to get around the staffing shortage, federal agents started dumping smaller cases off to the county level. If the feds couldn't prosecute the arrests, then perhaps the local prosecutors, particularly in rural counties, could.
"Initially, I was taking the cases and running with them," Santa Cruz County Attorney George Silva said. "Irrespective of what the feds were doing, if they were coming to me, we were taking them and running with them."
But soon, Silva ran into problems.
At their peak, the cases were coming in at the rate of about 15 a month in 2005, he said, and his two attorneys who handle drug prosecutions were overwhelmed. Moreover, the prosecutions were taking jail space, not to mention court and probation resources. So, now, Silva's office declines most of the federal cases that come his way.
In that respect, Silva's office mirrors that of Cochise County Attorney Ed Rheinheimer, who, for the most part, has not taken the federal cases.
"What they'll do is they'll catch you, they'll confiscate the drugs, but it's basically a catch-and-return program," Rheinheimer said. "I know a lot of people here point the finger at the U.S. Attorney's Office, but the failure here is a failure by the federal government in Washington to provide the resources for them to do these cases."
Prosecuting pot in Pima
One place where federal agents have had luck prosecuting pot seizures is Pima County. One of the reasons is there are more criminal prosecutors than in the rural counties, or in the U.S. Attorney's Office. Pima County has 54 felony prosecutors in a criminal division of 70.
But County Attorney Barbara LaWall said there is another reason her office is saddled with the prosecutions.
"What is happening is that if one of the federal agencies makes a bust of 500 pounds or less, they know that it is going to be declined by the U.S. Attorney's Office. So, they call in the local law enforcement agencies to pick up the dope."
If local law enforcers such as the Sahuarita Police Department or the Pima County Sheriff's Department make the arrest, then the case has to be prosecuted through the county system, which means the suspects stay in the Pima County jail, which as of July costs $166 for the first day and $57 each day after.
If the suspects are convicted, they are placed in state prisons — not federal prisons — so the cost to state taxpayers continues.
LaWall's office closed 70 marijuana cases in 2006 that she says should have been handled at the federal level. Currently, her office has 53 such cases open with 128 defendants.
"I'm not OK with that because these are federal cases," she said. "They should be handled by the federal prosecutor, and the federal jurisdiction. It's an added burden to Pima County."
Knauss has been a federal prosecutor for more than 35 years and during that time, he said, there have always been federal thresholds for drug prosecutions. While he declined to specify different thresholds, he said they have varied depending on the resources available. He is quick to note that his office prosecutes plenty of marijuana cases of less than 500 pounds, notably those on the Tohono O'odham Nation
, or cases involving repeat offenders and people who are carrying firearms, among others.
But, he said, his office's lack of prosecutors is especially noticeable these days given the increase in the number of U.S. Border Patrol agents and a national focus on illegal immigration.
"They beefed up the Border Patrol," he said. "They haven't beefed up the rest of the judicial system. … If we had say five more (prosecutors) that were devoted exclusively to doing narcotics prosecutions, we could make a significant dent."
Marijuana seizures of less than 500 pounds account for nearly 90 percent of the pot seizures in Arizona and roughly half of the actual pot seized, statistics from Arizona's High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area center show.
Some of the federal cases that Silva, the Santa Cruz County attorney, has not been able to prosecute have involved sizable amounts: 184 pounds in a March arrest, 237 pounds in an April arrest, 444 pounds in a May arrest.
All of the arrests were made by the Drug Enforcement Administration, which declined to comment.
"People should be held accountable for their actions," Silva said. "You sit back and you think, 'Wow, 440 pounds and no consequences, and it happened here in our country.' "
He and Rheinheimer, the Cochise County attorney, don't fault the U.S. Attorney's Office, but said the lack of prosecutions has dangerous implications.
On one hand, smugglers know that prosecutions are less likely with smaller loads. And on the other, it opens up the flow of drugs to the American interior and beyond.
"The drugs that come into Cochise County, they are on their way to other cities in Arizona where most likely they are going be staged," Rheinheimer said. "It's a problem that doesn't impact Cochise County or Santa Cruz County nearly as much as other states."
Said Silva, "There is so much emphasis on illegal immigration, and I think we should focus on it, but not at the expense of the war on drugs."