Cobb judge refuses to dismiss felony charge against Jessica Colotl

A Cobb County judge this week refused to dismiss a felony charge against Jessica Colotl, the Kennesaw State University graduate whose arrest sparked a national debate about illegal immigrants attending public colleges.

Superior Court Judge Mary Staley declined to dismiss the charge of false swearing even though Colotl completed a pretrial diversion program in February. Colotl completed the program to avoid a conviction for lying to deputies about her address when she was being booked into jail for driving without a license. She performed 150 hours of community service.

Staley said the Cobb Sheriff’s Office has “raised legitimate concerns that have not been adequately addressed as far as this court is aware.” The judge said Colotl has a misdemeanor conviction, which has “consistently disqualified entry into the Cobb County diversion program.” Colotl was convicted of driving without a license in 2010.

“The court believes all similarly situated defendants should be treated in the same manner,” Staley wrote in her order Monday.

Jerome Lee, Colotl’s attorney, said the charge should be dismissed since she completed the pretrial diversion program, and the district attorney agrees.

“We just want this all to go away,” Lee said. “It has dragged on long enough.”

Colotl’s parents brought her from Mexico to the U.S. illegally when she was about 10 or 11. In March 2010, a KSU police officer pulled her over for blocking the traffic flow in a campus parking lot, and she was arrested for driving without a valid driver’s license. Colotl has been granted deportation deferments since her arrest brought her to the brink of expulsion from the United States.

Cobb District Attorney Pat Head said he asked the judge to dismiss the false-swearing charge in keeping with an agreement his office made with Colotl. He said in an email Friday that he would file a motion next week, though he did not provide specifics.

“Ms. Colotl made an agreement and she has done everything that she was required to do,” Head said. “I believe current law prohibits prosecuting this case further.”

Cobb Sheriff Neil Warren said he agreed with the judge’s decision.

“Ms. Colotl deserves no special consideration in the criminal justice process for decisions she made as an adult to violate the laws of this state,” he said in a prepared statement. “Affording her special treatment in this situation would send the wrong message to our youth and other members in our society.”

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