Six months house arrest for former Howard Industries employee

By Mike McDaniel - bio | email

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Jose Humberto Gonzalez walked out of federal court Thursday morning with a sentence far less than what it could have been.

"Very fair, he's an excellent judge and he did the right thing," said defense attorney Tim Holleman.

Gonzalez was sentenced to six months of house arrest, five years probation, 15 months of which will be credited and a $4,000 fine.

"I think it's fair for Humberto in looking at his situation and what actually occurred," said Holleman.

In a plea deal with prosecutors, Gonzalez pleaded guilty to conspiracy in 2009, admitting his role in the 2008 raid on Howard Industries of Laurel which lead to about 600 illegal aliens being arrested.

Gonzalez admitted to encouraging illegals to live in the U.S., helped them get jobs and helped hid them. Last week the company pleaded guilty to conspiracy as well and was fined $2.5 million.

Gonzalez was the only company official charged, something his attorney says stems from problems long ago.

"There had been problems before Humberto ever went to work for Howard Industries," said Holleman.

In court, Gonzalez apologized, admitting his mistakes and said he, on more than one occasion, asked company officials to provide better safeguards with hiring procedures.

Meanwhile, company representatives pointed the finger at Gonzalez saying safeguards were already in place. Holleman says Gonzalez was just doing his job.

Holleman says, "There certainly appeared to me to be, from the evidence some pressure to hire Hispanic workers that lead to it."

Because of his family, ties the community, lack of a criminal record and corporation with prosecutors, Judge Keith Starrett said throwing Gonzalez in jail would be a waste of resources. Even after the sentencing Gonzalez had little to say.

"No comments, I wouldn't like to comment at this time, thank you," Gonzalez said as he walked out of court with his wife.

Copyright 2011 WDAM. All rights reserved.