Norwood resident will be deported to Mexico for 10th time in 10 years
A Norwood man will soon be deported to Mexico for the 10th time since 2012.
Court records show Luis Tapia, 30, pleaded guilty in July to reentry after deportation, a felony. He has been detained in the Butler County jail since his arrest in September 2019.
Tapia pleaded guilty to the same charge in 2017, received a nine-month prison sentence and was deported, according to court records.
"It's not only that he keeps coming back, it's what he does when he's here," Assistant United States Attorney Kyle Healey told United States District Judge Timothy Black in court on Monday.
Tapia was convicted of domestic violence, theft, obstructing official business and failure to comply, according to Hamilton County court records.
Healey said Tapia led police on high-speed vehicle pursuits in Hamilton County in 2010 and 2017.
The prosecutor asked Black to sentence Tapia to six to seven years in prison.
"He's a danger to this community," Healey said.
But Tapia told the judge that he was a changed man who wanted to be a better father. He promised to not return to the U.S., where he had lived most of his life during the past 25 years.
"I'm just speaking to you from my heart," Tapia said. "I want to be there for my kids."
Black sentenced Tapia to "time served" for the three years he's spent in jail.
"I'm giving you a break," Black told Tapia during his sentencing hearing on Monday. "It's on your shoulders."
After the hearing, Black allowed Tapia's children to enter the courtroom and say goodbye to him.
Tapia was deported three times in 2012, twice in 2014, three times in 2015 and once in 2018, according to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) affidavit.
"This is an offense that hasn't been taken seriously," former immigration judge Matt O'Brien said.
O'Brien, who also served as Assistant Chief Counsel with ICE, is the Director of Investigations at the conservative Immigration Reform Law Institute.
"If this individual hadn't been caught, what else would he have engaged in?" O'Brien said. "I think experience would indicate that he's not going to keep his word and he's going to wind up back here. And given the fact that he's an individual with an established criminal history, he's not likely to decide he wants to go to optometry school and open an honest business."
Tapia's drug charges dismissed after illegal search
In addition to being charged with illegal reentry after deportation, a grand jury also indicted him for possession with intent to distribute fentanyl and cocaine.
The charges resulted from evidence found in a duffel bag on the roof of the Norwood home where federal agents arrested Tapia.
The duffel bag contained "482 grams of cocaine and 496 grams of fentanyl," Healey wrote in the prosecution's sentencing memorandum. "Fingerprint analysis on a bag containing fentanyl positively matched Tapia's fingerprints."
But the drug charges were dismissed in July after Black ruled the critical evidence was inadmissible because it was discovered during an illegal search.
Black told Tapia he would have faced up to life in prison if he'd been convicted of the drug charges.
Court records show about an hour after agents raided the Norwood house in 2019 and arrested Tapia, a Norwood police officer responded to a 911 call reporting that a bag had been thrown on the roof during the incident.
Officer Ryan Harrison's body camera video shows he walked into the backyard and saw the duffel bag on the roof. Then, Harrison followed one of the residents inside the house.
The officer's body camera video shows the resident retrieved the bag and handed it to Harrison who took it outside.
One of the residents, a woman who said she was the mother of Tapia's three children, said the bag was "his," although she didn't identify him by name and Harrison didn't ask any of the residents to identify him by name, according to Black's court order.
Harrison's body camera video shows he placed the duffel bag on a step outside the house and searched it.
He found baggies containing what he believed to be drugs.
"This is a lot of stinking drugs, OK?" Harrison told the residents.
Harrison said he was taking the duffel bag to the officers who had arrested Tapia.
"Nobody knew none of that was here," the woman told Harrison. "We're kind of like innocent bystanders and I don't want anything to happen to my family."
No one else was charged in connection to the duffel bag.
In January 2020, three months after Tapia's arrest, his defense attorney Zenaida Lockard filed a motion to suppress the drug evidence.
She also argued that Tapia's cell phone should not be admissible because agents retrieved it after learning suspected drugs had been found in the duffel bag.
"The search of the red duffel bag occurred without a warrant and was invalid," wrote Lockard. "The seizure of the phone (and ultimately its contents) were a product of the illegal search of the bag."
The prosecution argued that Harrison's search was "reasonable."
"Officer Harrison’s training and experience alerted him to the fact that the bag likely contained contraband of some kind, and that it was likely dangerous," wrote Healey in a response to the motion to suppress.
In his 47-page order, Black wrote that Harrison "knowingly" entered the property "without consent," then "takes a duffel bag and seizes it without permission."
Black wrote that Harrison also searched the duffel bag "without authorization."
"The Court finds the search was objectively unreasonable and the deficiencies were sufficiently reckless, if not "deliberate," to require deterrence and warrant suppression," Black wrote.
On Tuesday, Norwood Police Chief William Kramer told the I-Team he had reviewed Harrison's body camera video.
In a text message in response to the I-Team's questions, the chief wrote that he had "no issues with the way the officer handled things. There was nothing reckless or deliberate" about the search.
On Tuesday, ICE agents took custody of Tapia again, for the final leg of deportation for the 10th time.