Posted on November 13, 2009

Sell Crack and Lie

Jaxon Van Derbeken, San Francisco Chronicle, November 12, 2009

When we last looked into San Francisco’s infamous “sell crack or die” case, Rigoberto Valle had been convicted and appeared to have a ticket for deportation without serving any more time behind bars, thanks to a judge who sympathized with the Honduran immigrant’s tale of being victimized by human traffickers.

Valle, 23, had indeed spun quite a tale from the stand in September [see below], {snip}


Judge Teri Jackson, however, seemed convinced that Valle was indeed a victim of human trafficking, and indicated she would sentence him to time served and probation. At that point, the feds would take over and start deportation proceedings.

However, things have changed a bit since then. It turns out Valle has been arrested numerous times in the United States dating back several years, and had been deported at least five times before being arrested in San Francisco.

He first came to the United States in 2000, when he was 14, but was sent home for being here illegally. Two years later, he was back and was arrested for a string of trespassing crimes in Denver. He was convicted of a drug offense there in 2004 and was deported.

In 2005, Valle was caught trying to get across the border in Arizona, jailed for two months and deported.

He was caught again in 2006, allegedly trying to deliver heroin in Portland. Even though that case was not resolved, he was deported in 2007.

He was caught again and deported from Arizona in December 2008.

It was only a few months later, in June, that he was caught in San Francisco, dealing crack. He has been jailed ever since.

On Thursday, after citing what she called a “shocking” effort to mislead the court, Jackson told Valle she intends to sentence him to one year in County Jail on top of the five months he has already served, and put him on five years’ probation. She said that if he returns to the United States after being deported, he will face five years in state prison.


Valle’s attorney, deputy public defender Hadi Razzaq, told jurors that his client is a victim who was brought to San Francisco by smugglers after a grueling journey by freight car and desert hike. Once here, he was ordered to sell drugs or be killed, Razzaq said.

“Deceived, imprisoned, intimidated, victimized, terrified–ladies and gentlemen, Rigoberto Valle is not guilty,” Razzaq told the jury.

Razzaq said Valle, who is expected to testify in his own defense, had sold his house in Honduras to raise $1,500 for the trip to the United States. Once he got near San Francisco, the smugglers demanded $500 more, which Valle did not have, Razzaq said.

“They locked him up for three days, and on the fourth day in the Bay Area, they forced him to sell,” Razzaq said.

He had been on the corner of Golden Gate and Larkin just 10 minutes when he was arrested, the defense lawyer said.

Razzaq said he would call an expert on human trafficking to support his defense of Valle. His client, he said, came from a village of about 100 houses, is illiterate and came to this country to support his family.

“He was terrified–he had been duped, he was essentially kidnapped and locked in a room for three days,” Razzaq said. “He was quite literally in fear for his life.”