HOUSTON – A pair of veteran Houston defense attorneys are demanding answers after one of their clients was accused of being in the country illegally.
Those attorneys said their client is a U.S. citizen and want to know why those agents put their client in handcuffs.
David Ochoa is facing capital murder charges. He has pleaded not guilty and while he was in court Friday morning for a hearing, his attorneys said a pair of federal agents showed up and told them they had a warrant for their client's arrest.
"It's a classic case, in my view, of a rush to judgment," said attorney Neal Davis.
Ochoa is represented by Davis and Jed Silverman.
"Initially I thought that maybe my client misrepresented something to me," Silverman said.
Both attorneys said the agents put Ochoa in handcuffs and shackles.
"Mr. Ochoa supposedly had been deported twice, he was a known gang member and I was told he was going to be charged with a federal crime," Davis said the agents told them.
Silverman said he was sure his client was a U.S. citizen, but the agents believed otherwise.
“They were also going to charge him with illegal re-entry (after deportation)," Silverman said.
Ochoa said he too, was baffled.
"At that point I'm like, 'what is going on?'” Ochoa said. “I was born here in Houston, Texas.”
Both attorneys said they asked the agents to hold off taking their client away until they verified his identity. They said the agents still wanted to take Ochoa to a federal detention center. Silverman said the judge in the local case then saw what was going on and called all parties to her bench.
“'Well, hold on a second, the courtroom is pretty empty today, surely you must have the ability to confirm his identity here in court,’” Silverman said Judge Hazel Jones told the agents.
Davis and Silverman said the agents eventually acquiesced to using a portable fingerprint verification device to check Ochoa’s identity. Both attorneys said that check revealed the fingerprints of the man they were looking for did not match Ochoa’s fingerprints.
"And then they thanked us for letting them do their job. In my view they never even did their job," Davis said.
Silverman was equally critical.
"If they had done their job he wouldn't have been put in leg irons, shackled in the courtroom and told he was going to be taken to some other place," Silverman said.
KPRC spoke with officials at Immigration and Customs Enforcement who said they were still researching this incident and did not have a comment at this time.