Crash victim wants justice

Immigration bills could have allowed for driver's arrest

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Living in America illegally is not enough to get you arrested. First you have to commit a crime.

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Travis Batton (left) and Joe Mills help Amanda Gschwendner get down a flight of stairs in her wheelchair in North Augusta.   MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
Travis Batton (left) and Joe Mills help Amanda Gschwendner get down a flight of stairs in her wheelchair in North Augusta.


That's the consensus among America's law enforcement, but it isn't an easy policy for Jim Batton to accept. His son's girlfriend, Amanda Gschwendner, is still recovering in a wheelchair after a violent wreck Dec. 25 on Hitchcock Parkway in Aiken. The driver of the vehicle responsible was an illegal immigrant, who was charged but not arrested before Aiken Public Safety officers sent him to Medical College of Georgia Hospital for treatment.

The driver was released from the hospital and has since absconded, leaving Batton and Gschwendner outraged and pointing fingers at Aiken Public Safety.

"There's just something really off about that," Gschwendner said. "Who's to say he won't hit someone else?"

Public Safety Director Pete Frommer defended the department's actions last week, saying everything was done by the book. There was no way to know at the scene that the driver was an illegal immigrant, and Public Safety doesn't arrest people for traffic offenses other than DUI, Frommer said.

"We treat everyone the same way," he said.

Just the suspicion that someone is in the country illegally would be enough to detain someone under bills filed in legislatures across the country, including Georgia and South Carolina. The bills are patterned after Arizona's embattled law, which allows officers to demand proof of citizenship and detain anyone who can't provide it.

Proponents say it would give officers much-needed authority to enforce federal immigration law, while critics contend it encourages racial profiling.

Arguably, if such a law was in place, officers could have taken custody of the driver the night of the wreck in Aiken.

Batton was at the scene, and a witness in the car behind Gschwendner's told him someone fled from the vehicle before officers arrived. The driver, who gave the false name Justino Arleo-Pool, spoke to the officer through a Spanish interpreter, Batton said.

The driver was talking with officers until he suddenly said he felt bad. He was immediately sent to MCG, where he was treated and released. Batton said he saw no visible injury to the driver.

Asked why the driver was sent to MCG's trauma center instead of Aiken Regional Medical Centers, Frommer said that call is made by medical professionals, not police.

He said in situations involving a hospitalized suspect, Aiken police rely on the hospital to call when the person is about to be released. At that point, an officer will go to the hospital with warrants and take the suspect to jail.

"That would not apply in a traffic situation," Frommer said, because the department merely issues a summons for traffic offenses.

Other jurisdictions take a different approach to traffic offenses.

Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength said a driver who is intoxicated, driving on a suspended license or causes an accident and is without insurance would be arrested.

If a driver has a valid license but not on his person, he might get away with a warning. If the person has no credible form of identification, he'll probably be arrested, Strength said.

A law that requires officers to check on a person's immigration status "would take more of a deputy's time," Strength said. "That's very obvious."

Still, "We need the authority to do anything and everything we can do," the sheriff said.

North Augusta Public Safety takes a similar approach.

If the records show the person's license was suspended out of state or the driver is involved in a hit-and-run, then he or she will be required to post bond, Lt. Tim Pearson said.

If the person is local or has local ties, the officer will use his discretion in deciding whether to issue a ticket, Pearson said.

Over the past five years there has been an influx of immigrants to Aiken County, but Frommer said his department generally has "very little contact" with them.

"They want to fly under the radar," he said.

Comments (17) Add comment
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corgimom
33951
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corgimom 03/14/11 - 05:28 am
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This is normal for illegal

This is normal for illegal immigrants, and Americans are the ones who pay the price for it. Mr. Batten, you will never see that man again.

To Miss Amanda Gschwendner- I'm very sorry for what happened to you, and I hope you recover soon.

Runner46
0
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Runner46 03/14/11 - 08:21 am
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We need SB-87 to pass our

We need SB-87 to pass our legislature. Justice needs to be metted out to illegals. Then, we have the guttless SB-40 to be thrown out. Illegals need to feel unwelcomed here in Georgia!

BornInAUG
1
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BornInAUG 03/14/11 - 08:39 am
0
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Wouldn't they have recorded

Wouldn't they have recorded each drivers information (Name, Address, Proof of insurance, DRIVERS LICENSE INFORMATION)? I know he gave in incorrect name, but wouldn't they have known this if he didn't produce a license? Maybe I'm missing something, but this seems like it could've easily been avoided. If NOT, what keeps more people from just giving false info and getting away with it? Seems like someone dropped the ball here, even if he did go to the hospital, I would've thought that those officers covering the accident would've recorded all this information, and when found it was false, arrest the man.

korndawg
5
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korndawg 03/14/11 - 09:34 am
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That's exactly what I was

That's exactly what I was thinking, BornInAUG. My sister, who knows about this stuff because her now-legal husband was an illegal for many years, says that illegals can go to North Carolina to get a driver's license. It amazes me the things that illegals can get away with. What if this girl died as a result of her injuries? If memory serves, there was a one-car accident in Aiken on Chime Bell Church road, where 3 illegals crashed their car. One of them died and the other two were released because the officers couldn't find any identifying information on them. I may be wrong about that, but it's typical of what illegals get away with.

airbud7
1
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airbud7 03/14/11 - 10:00 am
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In other words, they don't

In other words, they don't have a clue who the driver is.

curly123053
4899
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curly123053 03/14/11 - 10:44 am
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0
That driver is now in Mexico

That driver is now in Mexico !

noway
201
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noway 03/14/11 - 11:18 am
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It is horrible that this

It is horrible that this happend, but this article is extremely flawed. The mere statement that the chronicle makes that "The driver of the vehicle responsible was an illegal immigrant", is based on assumption. The article goes on to say that the police didn't know if the person was illegal. Passing a law to allow police to "assume" isn't right or fair. Just because someone doesn't speak English, does not make them "illegal". If we had that law on the books, it wouldn't have prevented this horrible accident. It sounds like the scoundral who did this was a bad person, and often times even red-blooded Americans cause horrific accidents like this too. Don't assume the person was illegal. The chronicle is just fueling this anti-immigration frenzy.

Crime Reports and Rewards TV
33
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Crime Reports and Rewards TV 03/14/11 - 02:35 pm
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Illegal’s getting away with

Illegal’s getting away with this is an indictment of Tax users that publicly endanger the taxpayers. Charge the Tax users with misappropriation of taxes, fine them with this woman’s damages that they CAUSED her to suffer at their lazy lawbreaking hands, seize all their illegally gained property, sell it, and refund it back to the treasury after repaying her expenses. The tax users will stop aiding and abetting in the commission of a crime and we'll also be closer to a balanced budget. 2 birds 1 stone. INDICT LAWBREAKING TAX USERS TODAY! We want our money back. Join the National Taxpayers Union. www.NTU.org
Redirect your taxes away from the LAWBREAKING TAX USERS BACK TO THE taxpayers before it is too late...

poolkeeper70
0
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poolkeeper70 03/14/11 - 03:31 pm
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my condolences to this

my condolences to this victem. Perhaps if Aiken Cty. followed Beaufort County's policy by having ICE (Immigration Customs Enforcement) around more, this illegal would have been escorted straight to jail AFTER his hospital visit, tried, convicted, and when his term is up, he would be deported. Honestly, I have lived in Beaufort Cty for almost 20 yrs, and this is the best I've seen how illegals have been dealt with so far. It just is not fair that honest americans have to pay this price for someone who can't follow the system. You want to be an american??? Stand in line and do it right like others have done.

TakeAHike
191
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TakeAHike 03/14/11 - 04:30 pm
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This isn't an immigration

This isn't an immigration issue at all! This is a problem with our lame traffic laws. You HAVE to be doing something really wrong to cause such tremendous bodily injury to the other party. By letting criminal drivers go instead of preventing lost or tampered evidence by securing the scene, investigating the car and driver as well as cell phone records, and arresting on the spot they make it very difficult to recover evidence later when an arrest is finally made. If they charge the driver with a crime then they need to be able to arrest him and throw them in jail immediately without double jeopardy being attached. Additional more serious charges (for example in the case that the victim dies) should be allowable later. They would have had plenty of time before the bond hearing to figure out he's a flight risk. This isn't just a problem with illegal immigrant drivers.

ednacushman
0
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ednacushman 03/14/11 - 04:45 pm
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TakeAHike, ‘This isn't just a

TakeAHike, ‘This isn't just a problem with illegal immigrant drivers.’
This is every thing about ‘illegal immigrant’ drivers. By the way it is not ‘illegal immigrants’ it is illegal aliens. Most of which do not a have valid drivers license or insurance.
SC is trying to pass a law where illegal aliens will be held and turned over to the feds but the libs are fighting it as usual. They claim it will cause profiling.

corgimom
33951
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corgimom 03/14/11 - 05:40 pm
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." My sister, who knows about

." My sister, who knows about this stuff because her now-legal husband was an illegal for many years, says that illegals can go to North Carolina to get a driver's license. "

That used to be the case; it's changed. I had a terrible time getting a driver's license here in NC when I got married. They wanted to see a mortgage or a lease agreement- I moved into my husband's house; they wanted to see a utility bill- they were all in my husband's name; they wouldn't accept my certified marriage license, my car insurance policy, a magazine subscription, or a library card.

I had to appeal to a supervisor for them to process my application and get my license. By the time I got done, I was foaming at the mouth and it was BAD. Of course, being the person that I am, I expressed myself by saying things like "I'm an American citizen, and you refuse to give me a license, but I see all sorts of Hispanic people driving. Why can you give them a license and not me?" To which the supervisor replied, "They are illegally driving without licenses." I said, "Well, I'm going to be doing that too unless you figure out a way to give me a license."

I threatened to call the newspaper and tell them that I was a legal resident that couldn't get a driver's license- and that's what did it.

corgimom
33951
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corgimom 03/14/11 - 05:42 pm
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0
"If NOT, what keeps more

"If NOT, what keeps more people from just giving false info and getting away with it? "

Nothing, they buy fake IDs from other states.

reba530
65
Points
reba530 03/14/11 - 09:21 pm
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first of all i am so sorry
Unpublished

first of all i am so sorry for what happened to this innocent lady..its always the bums that get away with everything. the only thing i have to say is God knows who you are and you will be caught.. By the way, keep your illegal, sorry, no good for nothing self where you are. and one more thing you better pray that this does not happen to you or a member of your family. remember what comes around goes around..full circle baby

corgimom
33951
Points
corgimom 03/14/11 - 10:34 pm
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The AC didn't say the man was

The AC didn't say the man was an illegal immigrant, Public Safety Director Pete Frommer did. How he knew that was not explained in the article, there was no need to explain.

traumaqueen
48
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traumaqueen 03/14/11 - 10:53 pm
0
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To the people who think the

To the people who think the police really did their job...you're funny!!

usapatriot
0
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usapatriot 03/15/11 - 01:46 am
0
0
1) noway, you're an enabler,

1) noway, you're an enabler, as much as liberals who constantly seek to shelter illegals and give them amnesty. Liberal politicians are to blame for illegals getting licenses in NC.

Liberals like Obama are responsible for trying to block states from doing anything about illegals. (See Holder files lawsuit against AZ)

2) If I'd have caused an injury accident in my 18 wheeler and was in violation of my log book, I'd be strung up. Guess not if I was an alien.

3) If employers can do a swift computer check of a job applicant, law enforcement can access a data base from their patrol car. I don't buy the

"A law that requires officers to check on a person's immigration status "would take more of a deputy's time," Strength said.

If that illegal wasn't here, Ms Gschwendner would not be in a wheel chair.

James E. Batton Jr.
0
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James E. Batton Jr. 03/15/11 - 10:12 pm
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Noway, I was at the accident.

Noway, I was at the accident. The illegal was driving with his headlights off. It was dark. He gave a false Mexican name. He told the police that the driver ran. He spoke through an interpreter. A witness told the police he was the driver and he saw the occupant in the back seat run. He had no license, no insurance, no ID, and he lied to police. According to Aiken police, they don't arrest illegal aliens in car wrecks because Aiken taxpayers would get mad when they had to pay the doctor bill's. Instead, they send them to MCG and Augusta has to pay for it. According to a source at the hospital, the illegal was drunk when he arrived. He was not hurt and he was released in Augusta. You would think the Aiken police would be suspicious since the passenger ran and the driver lied. I submitted a followup letter to the editor explaining what was left out. Amanda was able to stand up for the first time last week. I hope no one else meets this illegal that Aiken turned free. I wish you could have listened to Amanda's screams for over an hour while they attempted to cut her out of her car.

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