Custody of Rape Suspect Sparks Dispute Between Montgomery County, ICE Officials
Suspect released after ICE filed detainer last week
United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say Montgomery County violated its immigration policy after not complying with a detainer and releasing from jail a man accused of rape.
Rodrigo Castro-Montejo, a Salvadoran national in the country without legal authorization, was arrested Aug. 11 and charged with second-degree rape and assault. He allegedly sexually assaulted an intoxicated woman with whom he was acquainted, according to court records.
On Aug. 12, ICE filed a detainer with the Montgomery County Detention Center, asking the county to maintain custody of Castro-Montejo for up to 48 hours so immigration officers could take over custody and have him removed from the country, the agency said.
However, ICE said in a statement that the county did not honor the detainer and the entity was not notified when Castro-Montejo posted bond and was released from custody.
Castro-Montejo, 25, was released from custody on Aug. 13, according to online court records. A preliminary court hearing is scheduled for Sept. 6.
ABC7 first reported the arrest.
In a statement Monday afternoon, Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich disputed ICE’s claims and said the county’s Department of Correction and Rehabilitation notified ICE at noon Aug. 13 that Castro-Montejo was being processed for release. Castro-Montejo was released at approximately 6 p.m. the same day.
Elrich said county officials have “not received a follow-up call from ICE, nor any other communication regarding Castro-Montejo, since notifying ICE of his release.”
Because a detainer request is not legally binding, individual jurisdictions can determine whether to comply with ICE’s request to hold defendants in custody.
ICE spokeswoman Justine Whelan said the county attempted to call an off-duty officer who was traveling outside the area. She said detainers direct local agencies to call the Law Enforcement Support Center, a point of contact that operates 24 hours per day, “ensuring there are no breakdowns in good-faith communication efforts.”
Castro-Montejo had not been apprehended by ICE officers as of Tuesday morning.
The most recent dispute highlights a history of tension between Montgomery County and ICE.
In 2017, ICE issued a scathing news release, chiding Montgomery County officials for not honoring a detainer filed a day earlier for a 19-year-old Salvadoran national who was arrested for allegedly possessing an assault rifle at Albert Einstein High School. The rifle was stolen from a city of Rockville police vehicle, authorities said.
The El Salvador native was released from local custody despite the detainer, ICE said at the time. The organization at the time categorized Montgomery County as a “jurisdiction that has publicly limited cooperation with ICE and frequently ignores legally authorized detainers.”
Since that arrest, Montgomery County has reaffirmed its stance of not inquiring about people’s immigration status or aiding with ICE enforcement.
At a news conference in July, Elrich said the county’s policy guarantees that no county employee will assist an investigation by ICE agents into a person’s citizenship and that no employment decisions in the county would be based on immigration status.
The “Promoting Community Trust Executive Order” says no county departments may aid ICE in its enforcement efforts.
On Monday, Whelan, the ICE spokeswoman, said immigration officers seek courtesy from local agencies to enforce public safety.
“We’re not looking for anything that local law enforcement doesn’t afford other agencies,” Whelan said. “At the end of the day, we’re a law enforcement agency and we’re acting in the public interest.”
Last week, Elrich said in a statement the county would honor a detainer filed by ICE for two men accused of raping an 11-year-old girl.
The two Salvadoran nationals face counts of second-degree rape for the alleged assaults and are in the country illegally, according to law enforcement officials.
“After determining that the suspects are undocumented immigrants, Federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) requested that the County notify them if and when the two men are scheduled to be released from custody for any reason. The County will do so,” Elrich said in a statement last week.
Elrich added that the county’s Department of Correction and Rehabilitation will notify ICE if the suspects become eligible for release, but until then, they will remain in custody until the local legal process is complete.
Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org