US Attorney critical of Mecklenburg Co. Sheriff over ICE policies, files federal charges against man in May SWAT standoff

Updated: Jun. 4, 2019 at 4:17 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Andrew Murray, the United States Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina, was critical of the Mecklenburg County Sheriff on Tuesday, as his office filed a federal criminal charge against a man who was twice released from the county jail after being arrested on charges related to domestic violence.

Luis Pineda-Ancheta was arrested arrested twice by police in May, with the second arrest coming at the end of an hours-long standoff with CMPD’s SWAT team.

Pineda-Ancheta, who is a native of Honduras, is in the country illegally, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court by Murray’s office on Tuesday.

The fact that Pineda-Ancheta was released from the Mecklenburg County Jail after his second arrest in May has become a point of contention in the months-long disagreement between Sheriff Gary McFadden and the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

McFadden campaigned on a platform that included ending a controversial program where county deputies checked the immigration status of people who ended up at the jail, known as 287(g).

At the same time, McFadden also announced that he would no longer honor ICE detainers, which are a mechanism by which federal immigration authorities ask local jails to hold people who are suspected of being in the county illegally for additional time after they post bond.

Previous: Domestic violence suspect arrested by ICE hours after leaving Mecklenburg jail

ICE has said such a detainer was in place when Pineda-Ancheta was released from the Mecklenburg County jail twice last month.

Jail records indicate Pinea-Ancheta was booked into the Mecklenburg County Jail on May 15 after being charged with assault on a female, communicating threats, felony larceny, simple assault and injury to personal property. Jail records show he was released two days later.

Jail records show he was booked into the jail a second time on May 24 and charge with assault by strangulation, first degree kidnapping, assault on a female, domestic violence protective order violation, communicating threats, felony larceny, assault on a female, simple assault and injury to personal property. Jail records show he was released on June 1.

Tuesday’s complaint filed by the US Attorney’s Office charges Pineda-Ancheta with one count of re-entry by a deported alien.

The federal complaint said Pineda-Ancheta was removed from the country in December 2006 and there are no records showing he was ever given authorization to re-enter the United States.

In an interview with WBTV, Murray said he filed the federal action after Pineda-Ancheta was released a second time from state custody without honoring the ICE detainer.

“It’s unfortunate because that mean, really, I’m intervening in significant felony charges.," Murray said. ”Basically, I didn’t want a three-peat. I didn’t want him out again, given the allegations against him, to be a threat to the community or to the victim."

Murray, who referred to the sheriff’s office as a partner of the US Attorney’s Office in the interview, said he had not spoken with McFadden about this case. He said he would rather have the jail notifying ICE and of Pineda-Ancheta’s release.

“I would have certainly preferred, if he was getting out--given the fact that he had significant allegations of serious criminal violent activity--that the sheriff use the tools in his tool box, one of them being simply calling ICE and saying, ‘we’re processing this person out,'” Murray said.

Related: Inmate was released from Mecklenburg jail despite ICE detainer. He ended up in standoff.

A spokeswoman for McFadden acknowledged but did not respond to a request for an interview when reached for this story Tuesday afternoon.

Previously, McFadden has said his office would have honored a federal warrant for Pineda-Ancheta’s arrest had one been issued before his release.

“First of all, that’s rich to say that you don’t want people to be – individuals to be deported but then to say, ‘oh, you should go criminal complaint them.’ But that is a process,” Murray said when asked specifically about that criticism from the Sheriff.

Murray said the Sheriff’s refusal to cooperate with ICE with regard to violent offenders who are in the country illegally is putting the community at risk.

“You think the Sheriff is making Mecklenburg County less safe every time he doesn’t abide by an ICE detainer?” a WBTV reporter asked.

“No doubt in my mind. And somebody’s going to significantly be injured or killed and, given the allegation in this case, it had real potential,” Murray responded.

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