Saturday, May 10, 2003

Court upholds dismissal of case against Mexican

Nationality targeted him, panel says

The Associated Press

A federal appeals court upheld Friday the dismissal of a criminal indictment against a Mexican restaurant operator in Kentucky, ruling that U.S. authorities selectively prosecuted him based on his nationality.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the government had singled out Octavio Correa-Gomez for prosecution on charges that he encouraged foreigners to enter the United States and sheltered them so they could work at his restaurants.

A three-judge appellate panel upheld U.S. District Judge Henry Wilhoit Jr.'s 2001 ruling in favor of Correa-Gomez, who lived in Georgetown, Ky., and operated Mexican restaurants in Lexington, Georgetown and Mount Sterling. Wilhoit concluded that federal authorities had not prosecuted Caucasian businessmen on similar charges, said Steven Romines, lawyer for Correa-Gomez.

Wilhoit dismissed the indictment prior to a trial. Federal prosecutors appealed his decision.

Charles Wisdom Jr., an assistant U.S. attorney in Lexington who handled the appeal, declined comment on Friday's ruling.

Correa-Gomez has become a U.S. citizen and has sold his restaurants to avoid the risk of possible additional prosecution, Romines said.

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