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Immigration Businesses Targeted

An ICE bus pulls out of a tomato plant in O'Neill after an immigration raid at the plant in August 2018. 

A federal judge Wednesday afternoon granted a mistrial for an Atkinson man, one of three on trial for allegedly harboring people in the country illegally in connection to an immigration raid last year.

After the government rested its case against John Good, his attorney, David Domina, argued for acquittal, saying that the evidence was so weak no reasonable jury could convict him.

Chief U.S. District Judge John Gerrard agreed as to the money laundering count and dismissed it. That left two other counts: harboring and conspiracy to harbor.

Domina said the judge said that if the jury believed the government’s evidence it might be able to conclude that Good was guilty on those counts, stressing that the defense hadn’t yet started its case.

"Mr. Good then moved for a mistrial because the defenses of the other two defendants and Mr. Good are so completely inconsistent that the approach taken by the other defendants impaired the defense of Mr. Good making trial unfair. The judge agreed,” Domina said.

Good, a 75-year-old man from Atkinson, is a businessman who owned La Herradura, the Mexican restaurant in O'Neill that Juan Pablo Delgado and Magdalena Castro ran. He also sold the couple a home on contract.

Domina said Good didn't take one dime or even a free meal from the couple, later indicted for their roles in a staffing company that supplied a cheap, illegal labor force on contract to agricultural businesses.

The government had alleged Good harbored the couple and conspired to launder money.

In opening statements last week, Domina said Good bought a $35,000 home that the couple paid him for on contract, which he called an "act of kindness" that the government now says makes him guilty of harboring illegal immigrants.

The trial continued Thursday for two co-defendants, John Glidden, who managed a hog farm, and Mayra Jimenez, who worked in HR at an O’Neill tomato-growing plant. Both used Juan Pablo Delgado’s staffing company, allegedly knowing that the employees weren’t in the country and working legally.

Their attorneys had sought mistrials on Wednesday, too, at the close of the government’s case. But Gerrard denied the motions. The trial, which started Nov. 4, was set to resume Thursday morning for them.

Both are accused of harboring undocumented workers. Glidden also faces a count of aiding and abetting unlawful employment.

Asked if the government would seek to retry Good on the two remaining counts, Mike Norris of the United States Attorney's Office said they will consider their options after the current trial is completed.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7237 or lpilger@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSpilger.

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