3-judge panel to sentence convicted heroin dealer

Judge re-sends case to panel, as he can not himself consider mitigating factors not listed in statutes

A statewide three-judge panel will once again hear the case of a Juneau criminal who is facing deportation after being convicted on drug and interference charges.

Juneau Superior Court Judge Philip Pallenberg on Monday agreed to re-send the case of 37-year-old Jose Manuel Perez to the judicial panel for sentencing purposes.

The three judges on the panel answered specific legal questions in Perez’s case in April on direction from the Court of Appeals. The panel now is being asked to sentence Perez.

Perez is a citizen of the Dominican Republic who has been living lawfully in Alaska since 2000.

He pleaded guilty to fourth-degree felony drug misconduct for selling heroin out of his Switzer Village trailer last year. He originally faced more serious charges of possessing heroin with intent to distribute, but a jury deadlocked on that charge in August.

A jury did convict him, however, on fourth-degree assault and interference with official proceedings charges for getting into a jailhouse fight with another inmate at Lemon Creek Correctional Center while awaiting his trial.

If Perez receives more than a year sentence on the interference conviction, he will be deported to his native Dominican Republic. An immigration attorney testified in April that Perez would be eligible to apply for a one-time waiver of removal proceedings on the drug conviction which would give him a chance to avoid deportation. That waiver is not available for the interference conviction.

Public defender David Seid argued Perez should receive a 364-day sentence for the interference, one day less than the presumptive sentencing range, to keep Perez in the United States. Seid requested a non-statuary mitigating factor to allow for that.

Pallenberg is not allowed to consider mitigating factors that aren’t listed in Alaska statutes — only the panel of three can.

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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