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Judge tailors sentence so man can be deported

CONYERS - A man caught with a small amount of methamphetamine who admitted he was in the country illegally will face deportation after he completes one year and a day in jail.

Chief Superior Court Judge Sidney Nation ordered Abner Velasquez, 24, to serve two years for possession of methamphetamine after accepting his guilty plea Friday morning. The judge suspended the time after service of one year and one day so the defendant will be eligible for deportation.

"In cases such as this, the structure of the sentence does matter," Nation said. "He is entitled to due process and he is getting due process, but the legislature has said his status can be considered. The court does not care where he is from, but the fact remains he is in the country illegally and that matters."

Under Georgia law, the drug offense requires a minimum sentence of two years. But judges have the option to probate or suspend a portion of the time.

Nation generally sentences individuals who are caught using drugs to serve a year in jail, depending upon the individual circumstances of the case. However, he seldom uses probation as part of a sentence for individuals who are in the country illegally since a probated period requires defendants to remain in the country illegally rather then face possible deportation.

The charge against Velasquez stemmed from an incident in February when police responded to a residence on Pine Street for what was reported to be an assault in progress.

Police officers said they believed a number of people in the residence were using drugs. When they searched Velasquez, they found him in possession of a small about of methamphetamine.

The judge said Friday his concern was not the amount of drugs found on Velasquez, but the fact there were drugs in the residence at all.

"I favor immigration but under legal circumstances," Nation said. "I want him to go home and if he comes back, to do so legally; but the truth is he is involved with using drugs and that's not the kind of immigrant we want, legal or illegal."

Velasquez had no known prior criminal record, but Nation declined a request from his attorney to grant him first offender status.

Ric Latarski can be reached at ric.latarski@rockdalecitizen.com.