Alleged rape victim avoids deportationAttorney for Medrano still pursuing U visa with four year residency
A man who alleges he was raped in the Washington County Jail in 2011 is still being held in that jail. Martin Medrano, who alleges he was raped by a fellow inmate in the jail in July of that year, is being held as a material witness in the case against his alleged assailant.
Medrano is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. He had a deportation hearing scheduled for Monday, Nov. 5. Nicole Cooper-Merrill, who represents Medrano and is an attorney at the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault, said in an interview this week that that hearing was removed from the court’s schedule, and that Medrano has not been given a new deportation hearing appointment.
Merrill said that does not mean Medrano will necessarily avoid deportation, simply that his deportation hearing has been taken off the docket.
“I don’t know what will happen with his deportation hearing,” she said.
Merrill said Washington County Attorney Larry Brock sought a writ of habeus corpus for Medrano to make him a material witness. Brock has filed third-degree sexual abuse charges against Medrano’s alleged assailant, Rudolph Darnell Edwards.
Brock declined to comment on what it meant for Medrano to be a material witness and what this entitled him to. In an interview this week, he declined to make any statement about the charge against Edwards because it was an ongoing case.
Merrill said that someone who has a writ of habeus corpus as a material witness is in the state’s custody until they are no longer needed. She said it is usually used for inmates who are needed to testify in a trial.
When the rape allegedly occurred in July 2011, Edwards was being housed in the Washington County Jail for Johnson County on a charge of willful injury. Edwards is serving a sentence on that charge in the Anamosa State Prison.
Medrano was being housed in the Washington County Jail at that time for Henry County on a charge of identity theft.
Edwards’ arraignment date in the sexual abuse case has been set for Nov. 16.
Merrill said that she has been trying to get a U visa for Medrano but has not yet been successful. According to the Department of Homeland Security, a U Visa allows an immigrant to stay in the country as a legal resident for four years. It is for immigrants who have been victimized by certain crimes and who are assisting or who have assisted law enforcement in the prosecution of those crimes.
The first step in the U Visa application process is to show that the immigrant was the victim of a qualifying crime. A certifying agency must fill out this information in a piece of evidence called a form I-918B, which states what crime the victim suffered and that the victim is cooperating in the prosecution.
Merrill said that both Brock and Washington County Sheriff Jerry Dunbar have refused to fill out a Form I-918B for Medrano. However, Merrill was able to find another certifying agency who would fill it out, so Medrano has completed that part of the process. Merrill would not disclose which certifying agency filled out the Form I-918B for Medrano.
The Department of Homeland Security’s Web site indicates that certifying agencies can include federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, judges, family protective services, prosecutors’ offices, and several other investigative agencies.
Merrill said she could not discuss any of the information contained in the Form I-918B. She said she is still pursuing a U visa for Medrano and that the Form I-918B is just one piece of necessary evidence to get a U visa. The Department of Homeland Security ultimately decides to grant or deny a U visa application. Merrill said that alternatives to a U visa that would allow a victim to stay in the country to testify are limited.
The recipient of a U visa can apply for a green card to work in the U.S. if he has met certain residency criteria pertaining to the amount of time he has spent in the country.
Merrill declined to comment on whether Medrano should be housed in the Washington County Jail. She said that, generally speaking, it is concerning to put someone in a place that may trigger trauma.