Judge rules in favor of landlord’ defense in harboring case
By Brandon Ortiz
UPDATED: In a major blow to the federal government, a federal judge ruled Tuesday that an indicted Lexington landlord can use his ignorance of the law as a defense in a harboring trial scheduled to start next week.
William Jerry Hadden, 69, goes to trial Monday on charges that he harbored 60 illegal immigrants by allowing them to rent apartments at two Cardinal Valley apartment complexes in Lexington.
The trial is thought to be the first time the federal government has prosecuted a landlord for renting to illegal immigrants, defense attorneys have said in court filings.
Hadden’s defense attorneys have steadfastly maintained his innocence and claim that the federal government is twisting the intent of harboring laws. Tuesday’s ruling will allow defense attorneys to argue at trial that even if Hadden broke the law, he cannot be convicted because the law is confusing and vague and he did not understand it.
U.S. District Judge Karl Forester ordered the government to turn over all documents related to an “outreach program” required under the law to educate the public about harboring laws.
Hadden’s attorneys declined to comment for this story. But they’ve argued in legal filings that the government has not complied with its responsibility to educate the public.
“Jerry Hadden feels that he has been singled out for prosecution, and that the United States is attempting to make an example of him in order to deter others from providing the basic necessity of shelter to individuals who may be in this country illegally,” attorney Russ Baldani wrote in a motion. “If that is true, the government is attempting to educate the public about the crime of harboring by the prosecution of a reputable business person with a spotless record, rather than complying” with the educational requirements of the law.
Gail Montenegro, a spokeswoman for the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Chicago, declined to answer questions about whether the agency has complied with the outreach requirements in the law. Montenegro cited the open case against Hadden as the reason.
A search of the agency’s Web site, www.ice.gov, on Tuesday afternoon did not return any fact sheets or materials explaining the law.
The ruling will make it tougher for the prosecution to win its case, University of Kentucky law professor William Fortune said. Only a handful of laws, such as federal income tax laws, allow ignorance as a defense.
“It lets the defense say we just did not know what the law was and what our obligations were under the law,” Fortune said. “It is a defense that is generally not available. Generally you’re required to know what your obligations are under the law.”
Prosecutors will have to prove that the Haddens knew the tenants were here illegally, yet rented to them anyway. More important, they must also prove that Hadden attempted to conceal, harbor, or shield the tenants from detection.
Four illegal immigrants have testified in depositions that they showed only Mexican ID when they applied for apartments. The tenants applied to an apartment manager who also was an illegal immigrant, according to Hadden’s indictment.
But the immigrants also testified that Hadden had nothing to do with their entry into the United States. He did not find their employment, nor did he try to hide them from authorities, they said.
Hadden owns Woodbridge and Cross Keys apartments with his son, Jamey. Jamey Hadden, who lives in Vietnam, also has been charged but has not yet been served with the indictment.