The only company executive indicted in the nation's largest workplace raid on illegal immigrants pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of conspiracy.
Jose Humberto Gonzalez pleaded guilty to one charge of a 12-count indictment that alleged he knowingly hired illegal immigrants at Howard Industries, where he was personnel director. Prosecutors would not discuss details of the plea agreement.
More than 600 were arrested in the August 2008 raid on Howard's plant in the south Mississippi town of Laurel. Gonzalez, 45, was the human resources manager at the sprawling facility, which makes electrical transformers.
Several illegal immigrants have been convicted of identity theft and deported.
Gonzalez, wearing a dark brown suit, said little during the hearing other than responding to the judge with yes or no answers.
The court docket was backed up, so U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett conducted plea changes for two other men in unrelated cases at the same time as Gonzalez. That left Gonzalez standing before the judge next to a shackled crack dealer in a red prison jumpsuit.
Gonzalez refused to comment as he left the federal courthouse holding hands with his wife.
Gonzalez attorney, P.K. Holmes of Arkansas, passed out a written statement saying Gonzalez is prohibited from commenting on specifics of the case even though he wants to and "accepts responsibility for his actions."
He faces up to five years on the conspiracy charge. Sentencing is March 31.
As part of his plea, Gonzalez admitted to elements of the conspiracy, including hiring workers "regardless of concerns about their lawful status."
In December 2005, many workers fled the plant as rumors spread of a coming raid. Gonzalez "was summoned to the plant" to call workers and reassure them there was no raid and to tell them to come back to work, Assistant U.S. Attorney Gaines Cleveland told the court.
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
This report from ABC News details that guilty plea of Jose Humberto Gonzalez, a manager at Howard Industries who admitted to knowingly hiring undocumented workers. Although I'm very pleased that prosecutors are FINALLY going after employers, this report seems to indicate that Mr. Gonzalez was a fall guy--a middle manager who got scapegoated. It seems highly unlikely that Mr. Gonzalez was the sole perpetrator here.