A man charged with killing a bicyclist in March was sentenced to five years in federal prison on immigration and gun charges Friday, but he still faces state charges for manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident.
Jose Luis Alonso DeLeon was driving a truck when he struck and killed Amy Hawkins while she was riding her bicycle on County Road 13 in Fairhope March 25. A native of Mexico, DeLeon was in the country illegally at the time of the incident.
According to police, he fled the scene but was found in his parked vehicle roughly six and a half miles from the accident. There were reportedly open beer cans in the vehicle along with a stolen handgun. Illegal immigrants are not permitted to possess guns under federal law.
DeLeon has not been formally charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, but the results of a state toxicology report are still pending. Prosecutors did note He does have a prior DUI conviction from 2010.
The day after he was arrested by local police, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama Richard Moore announced his office would be bringing federal charges against DeLeon for “illegal reentry of a removed alien” and and “possession of a firearm by a prohibited person.”
DeLeon pleaded guilty to all federal charges against him.
On Friday, U.S. District Judge William Steele sentenced DeLeon to five years on the federal charges as well as three years of probation. Steele did not order the sentence to run concurrently with whatever state sentence DeLeon may receive, which could be up to 20 years.
His attorneys argued for a lesser sentence and urged the court to separate the accident from the facts behind DeLeon’s federal crimes. Federal Public Defender Fred Tiemann added it “would be improper for the court to form a sentence punishing him for the car accident.”
However, Assistant U.S. Attorney Maria Murphy noted the car accident would have never occurred of DeLeon wasn’t in the country illegally. She also said that DeLeon’s six prior run-ins with federal immigration agents — resulting in four voluntary deportations and two forced removals — showed a flagrant disrespect for the “laws of the United States.”
“He was in a place he had no right being doing something he had no right to do,” Murphy said. “He then left a catastrophic accident either because he was too drunk to know he hit someone or because he left [Hawkins] there to die intentionally. Neither is flattering.”
Murphy also argued that the sentencing guidelines for federal courts, which would have suggested a range from 15 to 21 months in prison, did not do enough to address the scope of DeLeon’s actions. As a result, the government recommended a 60-month sentence, which Steele ultimately found to be appropriate.
“It was not an accident, it was a crime,” Steele said of the March 25 incident. “These are three very serious felonies in Alabama, and he’s been convicted of two others in this court.”
According to testimony from the hearing, DeLeon has come and gone from Mexico on several occasions since 1999. He’s spent much of that time working in construction or as a mason in Baldwin County, though he was deported on at least two prior occasions.
On one occasion, DeLeon was formally removed from the country only to be found by agents the U.S. Department of Homeland Security 30 days later. Moore, who was appointed by President Donald Trump in 2017, said DeLeon’s case shows that “our immigration is totally broken.”
However, Moore also said his office and the Department of Justice led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions will be ramping up efforts to locate, charge and a deport criminal aliens.
“We have a new administration and a new attorney general who both believe that the American people have spoken — They do not want this type of thing happening in Baldwin County, Alabama or anywhere else in the United States,” Moore said. “We are going to be aggressively pursuing illegal aliens here who are committing crimes as well as the employers who know they are illegal aliens and still allow them to work. That is a distinct part of this problem.”
Asked if any employers hiring illegal immigrants had been charged federally in the Southern District recently, Moore said: “No, but that’s about to change.”