BY KEN LITTLE
After Habraham Enrique Guevara serves seven years in federal prison on a conviction of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, he will essentially become a man without a country.
Guevara, 26, who was brought to the U.S. by his mother from Mexico when he was 2 years old, will be deported to Mexico as an illegal alien after he serves his time in prison on the felony drug conviction, U.S. District Judge J. Ronnie Greer told Guevara Tuesday at sentencing in Greeneville.
Greer told the defendant he considered that likelihood in accepting the recommendation of defense lawyer Stephen G. McGrath to give Guevera an 84-month prison term, when he could have sentenced him to considerably more time.
Guevara's father, Jose Guevara-Cazarez, is also a defendant in the case, as is his uncle, Arnoldo Ayala Guevara Cazarez.
Jose Guevara-Cazarez was also scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday, but Greer continued the sentencing hearing until March 3 so Guevara-Cazarez could review documents related to his pre-sentencing report with his lawyer and an interpreter.
All three men were arrested in January 2012 in a Limestone house, where a total of four pounds of methamphetamine were seized.
The quantity is the second-largest amount of meth ever confiscated in Upper East Tennessee, Assistant U.S. Attorney Helen Smith reminded Greer before he sentenced Guevara.
Smith and Assistant U.S. Attorney Wayne Taylor are prosecuting the case for the government.
They recommended a prison sentence of 97 to 121 months for Guevara.
In court, Greer painstakingly weighed "the nature and circumstances" of Guevara's involvement in considering a lengthier sentence.
Prosecutors said Guevara acted as a lookout during the transaction with undercover agents that led to his arrest, transported two pounds of meth to a house on Bailey Bridge Road the night before the deal took place, and used his English-speaking skills to help two men transporting some of the meth to Tennessee.
Jose and Arnoldo Guevara Cazarez could receive prison terms of more than 20 years when sentenced, according to court documents.
Enrique Guevara, a David Crockett High School graduate who Greer said is American in every respect but legal citizenship, will have to adjust to what amounts to a foreign culture in Mexico upon his release from prison.
Greer said he had to take into account the serious nature of the drug charge while considering the sentence.
The four pounds of meth were mostly uncut, and Smith said one pound of the drug was 92.9 percent pure, qualifying it as "ice," an extremely potent form of the highly addictive drug.
Greer said he had to consider the devastating impact the meth -- which likely came from a Mexican drug cartel -- would have on the lives of countless people if it hit the street.
"While we don't know the extent of this conspiracy, there is no doubt there are dangerous people involved," Greer said. "The public shouldn't have to tolerate these kinds of activities in their community."
UNCLE'S ALLEGED ROLE
Arnoldo Guevara Cazarez lived in Oklahoma City, Okla., according to a sentencing memorandum.
Court documents state that he arranged in January 2012 for the transport of more than four pounds of meth from Oklahoma to Limestone, personally transporting two pounds of meth to Tennessee.
Documents state that Jose Guevara-Cazarez and his son, Enrique, conspired with Arnoldo Guevera Cazarez "to distribute and to possess with the intent to distribute the methamphetamine."
Law enforcement officers conducted an undercover operation which resulted in the seizure of the methamphetamine at the house in Limestone.
Guevara had no prior criminal record. He lived for years in the Telford area of Washington County.
'YOU COULD HAVE REFUSED'
Before sentencing, Guevara was described by a sister, his fiancee and the fiancee's mother as a kind, respectful, hard-working person who sought to do the right thing.
That prompted Greer to question why Guevara didn't decline involvement in the drug conspiracy.
"You could have refused to participate," Greer said.
McGrath said Guevara was placed in a very difficult position.
"It was a living, moving thing that was going on that he was pulled into," McGrath said.
In a sentencing motion arguing for a reduced sentence that was submitted to the judge in December, McGrath said Guevara viewed his actions as a "necessary favor" for his family.
Guevara takes responsibility for his role in the drug conspiracy, the motion said.
DRUG CASES ON RISE
Greer said the number of drug-related cases he has seen over the last 10 years has "grown and grown and grown," including defendants in meth-related cases "who look like they walked out of a concentration camp."
"It is a very harmful substance. There is nothing positive about the drug," Greer said.
Fatalities relating to drugs and drug addiction are now the leading cause of death in the U.S., "especially in the Appalachian region," Greer said.
Guevara, shackled and wearing bright lime-green jail pants and shirt, showed little emotion after he was sentenced and led out of the courtroom by U.S. Marshals.
"I don't want in any way to send some kind of message that this kind of conduct will be tolerated," Greer said.
But Greer said he recognizes "the collateral consequences" of Guevara's conviction.
AN 'ALIEN' IN MEXICO
"You are in all respects an alien in Mexico. You have nothing to tie you to that place other than you were born there," he said. "All of your social ties are in the U.S., but because of your status as an illegal immigrant, you will be deported."
Guevara's four brothers and sisters, all in the courtroom Tuesday to provide support, were born in the U.S. and are American citizens.
Charges relating to Guevara's illegal status in the U.S. were not pursued by prosecutors after he entered the guilty plea to the drug conspiracy charge last year.
Guevara applied electronically for a job on Jan. 4, 2012, at East Tennessee State University, providing a Social Security number and stating he was a lawful permanent resident of the U.S., court documents state.
Homeland Security records showed the information he provided was for a female native of El Salvador who was ordered deported by an immigration judge, documents state.
"Despite the fact that you were here illegally, had you not gotten yourself involved in this large meth deal, you would not be standing here. You would not be facing deportation," Greer told Guevara.
Guevara's father and uncle have both been deported from the U.S. and re-entered the country illegally in the past, court documents state.
"If you do return illegally as your father has chosen to do, the consequences will be quite severe for you," Greer told Guevara.
The judge said he understands why people from other counties try to seek a better life in the U.S.
"You tried to better yourself. Until January 2012, you had done what you should have done," Greer said.