UPDATE: Court hearings held on the dance floor

UPDATE: Court hearings held on the dance floor

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UPDATE: Court hearings held on the dance floor
UPDATE: Court hearings held on the dance floor

WATERLOO - Court continued today for Agriprocessors employees who were detained Monday during a raids at the Postville plant.

The Electric Park Ballroom at National Cattle Congress has been converted into a federal courtroom for the those who have had criminal charges levied against them.

Defendants are being brought in eight to 10 at a time and given a mass initial appearance hearing for charges including identity theft, misuse of Social Security number and possession of counterfeit documents.

Proceedings started Tuesday afternoon with a group of 10 men and then continued at 10 a.m. today (Wednesday) with nine women. After that, more men were brought in.

Chief Judge Linda Reade said the court is prepared to continue into the night.

Courtrooms have also been set up in temporary buildings in the event that defendants want to plea guilty.

Immigration agents administratively arrested 360 people during the raid. So far 125 people have been charged with crimes, nine of those charged were women, said Bob Teig, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Cedar Rapids.

U.S. Marshals, who are in charge of security for the NCC courtrooms, have been requiring photo identification from people attending courts, Teig said. He said this is standard procedure for off-site courts.

Contact Jeff Reinitz at (319) 291-1578 or jeff.reinitz@wcfcourier.com.

Earlier story:

WATERLOO - The first 10 people to be charged in connection with Monday's immigration raid in Postville received their initial court appearance Tuesday afternoon.

The Electric Park Ballroom on the National Cattle Congress grounds was converted into a makeshift federal courtroom for the occasion.

On the dance floor, Magistrate Judge Jon Scoles sat before a curtained screen that held the seal of the United States.

The 10 detainees, captured while working at Agriprocessors meatpacking plant, sat in a single row listening on plastic headphones to proceedings translated into Spanish. Charges ranged from illegal reentry to aggravated identity theft.

Defense attorney Stephen Swift said one of the defendants, Noe Castillo-Ordonez, was born in 1990 and is a juvenile.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Rose told the court he had tried to pass himself as 20 when working at the plant and during his first contact with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. She said he will be treated as a juvenile until the matter can be sorted out.

Scoles set a status hearing for the 10 on Tuesday.

The 10 will remain in custody until then and were sent out of the NCC grounds to federally certified jails in Iowa, said Chief Judge Linda Reade.

Spectators at Tuesday's 10-minute hearing consisted mainly of attorneys and interpreters.

Absent were any family members of the detainees, said Cheryl Roberts, a volunteer for El Centro Latinoamericano. The social service organization brought about 20 relatives from Postville to stay in Waterloo, but they stayed away from the court hearings, she said,

Court at Electric Park Ballroom continues today with preliminary hearings for nine women picked up at the plant. Another 10 men will go before a magistrate after them.

Court schedules are being posted at the U.S. District Court for Northern Iowa's Web site at www.iand.uscourts.gov. It is under the "Waterloo Calendar" section.

ICE agents administratively arrested about 390 workers at Agriprocessors Monday.

Monday night and Tuesday, immigration officials processed the workers at NCC to determine which ones will face criminal charges. Those decisions continued Tuesday night, officials said.

Some 56 people have been released because of health or child-care reasons. The were let go on the condition they appear before a judge at a later date.

Those not charged with crimes still face administrative proceedings, which could lead to deportation.

Contact Jeff Reinitz at (319) 291-1578 or jeff.reinitz@wcfcourier.com.

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