YULEE, Fla. – A man a Nassau County deputy was chasing when he was struck and killed by a vehicle last month pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court to entering the country illegally.
Francisco Portillo-Fuentes, of El Salvador, who has been deported twice before -- most recently in August – could face up to two years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
His attorney, Mark Rosenblum, said he plans to push for considerably less time.
An immigration attorney not affiliated with the case said cases like this usually bring lesser sentences.
"If they’re convicted, they are usually sentenced to six months to a year. Often that ends up effectively being time served," attorney Rebecca Black said. "Once he goes through the entire process, once he’s served all the time he has to, then he will be put on a plane and sent back home, because he already has an outstanding order of deportation."
The U.S. Attorney's Office said it could pursue other charges in Nassau County Deputy Eric Oliver's death after the deportation charges are settled. But Rosenblum said he doesn't think they should.
“What Mr. Portillo-Fuentes did was not intentional,” Rosenblum said. “He didn't do anything. Basically all he did, as I understood what they tell me, is that he ran away. And that to me is just human nature. It's what's called fight or flight.”
Portillo-Fuentes' wife, Viviana, told News4Jax on Wednesday that the two have been married for seven years and have three children together. She has two other children from a previous relationship.
Viviana, who was born in the U.S., said Portillo-Fuentes came back into the country to help provide for her and the children. She said she is sorry for Oliver's death, but that her husband wasn't trying to hurt anyone. He was just trying to get away from authorities.
Portillo-Fuentes, 26, was living near the Gator Lodge on Philips Highway and was picked up to do day labor work in Nassau County the day of the incident.
According to Todd Bryant, division chief for the U.S. Border Patrol's Miami Sector, six men in a pickup truck located at a Gate gas station in Yulee were investigated by Border Patrol officers, and at least three were found to be foreign nationals not authorized to be in the United States. Portillo-Fuentes was in the truck with the men, authorities said.
As agents were placing the three men under arrest and putting them in the Border Patrol vehicle, Portillo-Fuentes ran.
Oliver and another deputy followed him, and Oliver was killed when he was hit by an SUV while chasing Portillo-Fuentes across State Road 200.
CRIMINAL COMPLAINT: U.S. vs. Francisco Portillo-Fuentes
Portillo-Fuentes was arrested that night at Atlantic Self Storage on Powers Avenue following a manhunt involving the U.S. Marshals Service, the Nassau County Sheriff's Office, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and the Florida Highway Patrol.
Portillo-Fuentes was deported from the United States in 2011 and again sometime after an August 15, 2016, conviction for DUI. He was arrested in a traffic stop on Philips Highway at 2:15 a.m. on May 15.
After he pleaded guilty to the DUI charge, he was transferred to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. According to federal court documents, he re-entered the United States a second time by wading across the Rio Grande River from Mexico to Laredo, Texas.