Immigrant gets reduced term

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A Mexican national who sneaked into the United States missed out on a sentence reduction because he was caught in Utah, rather than another state.

Raul Enrique Perez-Chavez faced tougher punishment than defendants who are prosecuted in states offering a fast-track program designed to cut down on court backlogs. Those states, some border and some nonborder, mete out shorter sentences to illegal immigrants who save time by pleading guilty instead of going to trial.

Perez-Chavez, however, got a break based on family circumstances. On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Paul Cassell meted out an eight-month sentence - less than half of the minimum term recommended under federal sentencing guidelines - because Perez-Chavez re-entered the United States to help his wife, who had just given birth after a high-risk pregnancy and who was caring for her terminally ill grandfather.

The judge earlier had said he was troubled that some defendants in Utah receive longer sentences than those charged with identical crimes in states with the fast-track program, which is unavailable in Utah.

Despite those concerns, Cassell denied Perez-Chavez's request for a fast-track reduction.

Perez-Chavez and his wife, Mayra Selene Garcia-Wong Valencia were deported in March 2003. Garcia-Wong returned to Utah after she became pregnant and her doctor said she needed medical care in the United States to save her unborn child.

The baby was born three months premature and required months of treatment, according to Carlos A. Garcia, Perez-Chavez's attorney. He said Garcia-Wong's grandfather, who was also living in Utah at the time, was diagnosed with lung and liver cancer about the same time.

Perez-Chavez was arrested last December and will receive credit for the five months he already has spent in jail.