Illegal immigrant fights S.F. drug charge

A San Francisco jury found a 23-year-old illegal immigrant guilty Friday of selling crack cocaine in the Tenderloin despite his claims that human traffickers forced him to do it.

The case pitted the issues of human trafficking versus illegal immigrants who commit crime in the sanctuary city of San Francisco. While it is common for illegal immigrants to claim they are blackmailed into a life of crime, the cases rarely go to trial.

After what jurors described as about seven hours of intense and at times heated deliberations, an applause came from the jury room as the decision was made.

Jury foreman Daniel Ludwinski said he was one of the last to hold out against finding Rigoberto Valle guilty, but in the end he just didn't believe the Honduran immigrant's story.

I had sympathy for him because at some point he was victimized, Ludwinski said. “It all came down to whether or not we could trust the defendant.”

Police arrested Valle in an undercover “buy-bust” operation at Larkin Street and Golden Gate Avenue on June 4. Plainclothes officers gave Valle $20 and he spit out two rocks of crack cocaine in return, according to the charges.

Valle, who listened to the trial through an interpreter, claims he was the victim of human trafficking and was forced to sell drugs in order to pay a $500 debt to a smuggler. His attorney, Deputy Public Defender Hadi Razzaq told the jury on Thursday that the smuggler, also known as a “coyote,” put a knife to Valle’s throat, forcing him to sell drugs.

This happened after an arduous desert journey from Mexico to Arizona in which his family member paid a $1,500 fee. His trip to San Francisco would cost him another $500, which he couldn’t pay.

Prosecutors said the trafficking defense is just a way to avoid going to prison. If the jury believed his story, it could have sparked a defense with the potential to allow illegal immigrants to deal drugs with impunity. 

Assistant District Attorney Richard Hechler, in his closing statement, said Valle’s story is unbelievable because he always had a chance to escape.

“He could have run. He should have run. He didn’t run,” Hechler said.

Valle could be sentenced to prison but will most likely end up with probation. He will face deportation, however, because authorities believe he is in the country illegally.
 

Bay Area NewsLocalSan Franciscotrial

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

San Francisco Sheriff candidate Paul Miyamoto in a meeting with the Examiner editorial board on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
New shelter-in-place order gives tenants a temporary reprieve from eviction

Sheriff’s Department briefly resumed regular enforcement this week

Under stay-at-home orders effective Sunday in San Francisco, outdoor dining is not allowed, and there are new limits regarding the number of people that can be indoors at essential businesses. <ins> (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Bay Area counties to shut down outdoor dining, non-essential businesses

Regional stay-at-home order to take effect Sunday, sooner than statewide order announced Thursday

Former Golden State Warriors’ Kevin Durant received his 2017-18 Championship ring at Oracle Arena in Oakland on Oct. 16, 2018. Durant, now playing with the Brooklyn Nets, will play against his former team at Chase Center in February. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Kevin Durant to face former teammates at Chase Center in February

Schedule released Friday calls for Warriors to play Christmas and New Year’s Day games

San Francisco 49ers running back Raheem Mostert’s (31) return from injury last week was key for the team’s offense. <ins>(Chris Victorio/Special to S.F. Examiner)</ins>
49ers fighting for final NFC wild-card spot in Monday’s game against the Bills

Bills at 49ers When: Monday, 5:15 p.m. Where: State Farm Stadium, Glendale,… Continue reading

The Smashing Pumpkins’ 2020 recording is the 20-song “CYR.” (Courtesy photo)
Billy Corgan continues to confound expectations

Smashing Pumpkins release retro-sounding ‘CYR’

Most Read