Thursday, May 29, 2008

Immigration officials put hold on suspect in deadly prom-night crash (Island Packet)

Immigration officials put hold on suspect in deadly prom-night crash
Published Thursday, May 29, 2008

Federal officials are investigating the immigration status of the alleged drunken driver charged in the crash that claimed the life of Bluffton High School junior Josh George as he headed home after the prom.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has placed a hold on 20-year-old Juan Rodriquez, who is being held on a $750,905 bond at the Beaufort County Detention Center.

The hold means Rodriquez might be deported after he is either found not guilty or serves a prison sentence, said an ICE spokesman. Citing privacy issues, ICE would not comment on whether Rodriquez is in the country legally, the spokesman said.

The hold "... means that ICE has determined that further investigation of his legal status is warranted," said Philip Foot, director of the county jail.

The jail automatically sends the name of every non-native born inmate to ICE, Foot said. A final decision on whether a suspected illegal immigrant is deported is made in an immigration court operated by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Authorities still aren't sure of Rodriquez' true identity. His fingerprints were sent to the FBI, which compared them with a national database. No matches were found, said Lt. Bryan Norberg of the Bluffton Police Department.

The suspect was booked as Juan Rodriquez at the county jail, the name he gave officers after his arrest early May 18, less than a half-hour after the wreck that killed George, 17.

At a bond hearing the following day, he told the judge his real name is Juan Jose Olague Roman.
Fourteenth Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone will attempt to indict him under both names during a grand jury session next month.

"In that sense, it really doesn't matter what his real name is," Stone said.

Rodriquez' attorney, Public Defender Gene Hood, did not return a call seeking comment Wednesday.

Officers found Rodriquez at his home on Freirson Circle in Bluffton by following a trail of car parts left on the road. In the driveway, they discovered a green Subaru sedan with
extensive front-end damage that matched car parts found at the scene, police said.
Rodriquez, a painter from either Honduras or Mexico, rented a room in the home shared by approximately 10 people, police said.

He has been charged with felony DUI resulting in death, leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death, driving without a South Carolina driver's license, operating an uninsured vehicle and failure to yield right of way.

If convicted, he could receive up to 50 years in prison and fines of up to $50,200.

The crash occurred just before 3 a.m. May 18 at the intersection of Buck Island Road and Bluffton Parkway. George had just dropped off his girlfriend and two friends after a party and was headed home.

The gifted student and captain of the school's varsity soccer team died two days later at a Savannah hospital. He was an organ donor.

He was laid to rest Saturday next to his father, Maj. Aaron C. George, after a private graveside service in Huntington, W. Va.

The elder George died in July 2001 when the F-16 he was piloting crashed in a remote mountainous area near Edwards Air Force Base in California.

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