Even though Jessica Colotl completed a pretrial diversion program, Cobb County Superior Court Judge Mary Staley last month refused to sign off on ending prosecution of the Kennesaw State University graduate whose 2010 arrest for a minor traffic violation brought national attention to the issue of illegal immigrants in public colleges.
Colotl's misdemeanor conviction for driving without a valid license “consistently disqualified entry into the Cobb County diversion program,” Staley explained in her Sept. 24 order. “The court believes all similarly situated defendants should be treated in the same manner.”
Tuesday, Cobb County District Attorney Pat Head reminded the judge that Staley's own sister was admitted to the same program despite charges that, on the surface, would have disqualified her from participating.
“Individuals charged with False Statement and even Forgery in the First Degree have been successfully admitted into the Pretrial Diversion Program. (See State v. Linda Staley Clark),” he wrote.
Head said while individuals who have been arrested or convicted of a crime are ineligible to participate in the program, written guidelines “also clearly allow for the exercise of the District Attorney's discretion in making exceptions to the requirements.”
People arrested and charged with DUI, speeding and other traffic offenses have been admitted to the program, Head wrote. One person currently in the program has more than one felony prosecution pending, he said.
“Ms. Colotl's acceptance into the program is neither unique nor remarkable for a young person with no history of violence or aggression, and whose sole misdemeanor conviction is that for a traffic offense," Head wrote. "As these examples clearly show, the District Attorney agrees with the Court when it stated all similarly situated defendants should be treated in the same manner.”
Staley could not be reached for comment.
Colotl's legal ordeal began in March 2010 when she was pulled over for blocking the traffic flow in a campus parking lot, charged with driving without a license and turned over to immigration authorities.
Then a junior political science student at Kennesaw State, her case fueled the debate about whether illegal immigrants take seats in public colleges away from lawful residents.
Kennesaw State officials and immigration advocates rushed to her defense. Colotl's first one-year deferment allowed her to complete her studies, while the second allowed her to stay in the country long enough to attend her graduation in May 2011.
Colotl completed the pretrial diversion program to avoid a conviction for lying to authorities about her address during that 2010 arrest.
"Defendant served at least 150 hours of community service, paid fees associated with the Program, reported as directed and otherwise fulfilled her obligations under the terms of the program," Head wrote Tuesday.
Information from the Kennesaw Patch archives was used in this report. Open the PDF under the photo to read Head's response to Staley.
- Sept. 30, 2012: Judge: Felony Charge Against Jessica Colotl Stands
- May 8, 2012: Colotl Allowed to Stay Another Year
- Oct. 8, 2011: Negotiations to Be Renewed in Jessica Colotl Case
- May 18, 2011: Voices: Cobb’s D.A. King Applauds H.B. 87
- May 11, 2011:
- Nov. 30, 2010: Is Moderation on Illegal Immigration Impossible?