Convicted child molester released from jail to ICE due to clerical error | 1local | #childpredator | #kidsaftey | #childsaftey

A convicted child molester was mistakenly released from the Loudoun County Adult Detention Center to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement due to what Loudoun officials say was an error by a Loudoun Circuit Court deputy clerk.

On Jan. 11, Ruber Mercado Paz was sentenced to five years with one suspended for aggravated sexual battery; he groped a then-10-year-old girl in January 2023.

Ruber Mercado Paz

However, the clerk mistakenly wrote in a jail commitment card that Mercado Paz was sentenced to five years with four suspended, according to Clerk of Court Gary M. Clemens. The court website also listed the incorrect sentence. A court clerk checking electronic records on Jan. 16 provided the incorrect sentence when the Times-Mirror inquired about it.

Mercado Paz had been jailed since February. If he had received a year of jail time, his time served would’ve made him eligible for release because inmates in Virginia who maintain good behavior while incarcerated typically serve 85% of their sentences.

But because Mercardo Paz is believed to be in the U.S. illegally, Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert Anderson said Mercardo Paz was released on a detainer to ICE for deportation proceedings rather than being freed. In the detainer process, ICE asks local jails to hold people suspected of being in the U.S. illegally for up to 48 hours after their scheduled release so ICE officers can pick them up.

Anderson said on Jan. 18 that his office learned of the mistake that day. In a Jan. 18 emergency arrest order, Chief Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Nicole Wittmann wrote that Mercardo Paz was released because of a “clerical error in the jail card.” The order called for Paz to be returned to the jail and held without bond.

Thomas R. Julia, lead spokesman for the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, which runs the jail, wrote in a Jan. 19 email that Mercado Paz became classified as a state inmate after being sentenced. The Virginia Department of Corrections was notified and scheduled his release for Jan. 17.

But because of the detainer, Mercado Paz was turned over to ICE rather than freed. Julia said Mercado Paz was being held at the Caroline Detention Facility in Bowling Green on Jan. 19. “It is our understanding that the Loudoun County OCA is working directly with ICE now to get him back to the Loudoun County ADC,” Julia said.

Anderson emphasized his office acted properly and said “the system worked.” But he conceded that Mercado Paz would have been freed if he wasn’t wanted by ICE.

“When we found out there was a mistake made, there was an emergency capias (arrest order) issued and he would’ve been picked up, unless he became a fugitive,” Anderson said. “But it’s possible, if he wasn’t an illegal alien, that it might have taken a couple of days to find him.”

Clemens praised the handling of the matter by the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney. “I’m grateful that we’ve got a commonwealth’s attorney and his team that quickly reacted and took action to make sure this individual remained in custody,” he said.

Mercado Paz, a 34-year-old Sterling resident, pleaded guilty in July. He fondled the girl in a Sterling home while she was in bed, according to Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Shara L. Krogh’s written proffer of facts. Mercado Paz told authorities he mistook the girl for her mother, according to Detective Justin T. Oksanen’s criminal complaint.

State sentencing guidelines recommended a minimum of one year and 10 months, a midpoint of three years and four months, and a maximum of five years and one month.  If not deported after being released, Mercado Paz will be on five years of supervised probation and must register as a sex offender for life.

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