Guard Member Sentenced

Guard member sentenced

Star-Telegram Staff Writer
Posted on Wed, Feb. 20, 2008

A federal judge in the Rio Grande Valley sentenced a Texas National Guard soldier from Fort Worth to 38 months in prison Tuesday for his role in smuggling illegal immigrants during a high-profile border clampdown last summer.

Clarence Hodge Jr., 36, a veteran sergeant in the Guard and a third-generation soldier, pleaded guilty in August to conspiracy to transport illegal immigrants from May through early June as he worked in Laredo on Operation Jump Start, an effort initiated by President Bush to rein in illegal immigration along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Hodge faced the possibility of a 10-year sentence from U.S. District Judge George Kazen.

Hodge, a longtime Delta Air Lines reservations agent and part-time soldier, “tearfully apologized to the court, admitting that by his actions he embarrassed both his family and the military,” according to a news release from the U.S. attorney's office.

Kazen also ordered that Hodge complete three years of supervised release after prison and perform 120 hours of community service. Hodge waived all appeals.

His mother, Marilyn Hodge, a longtime trustee with the Everman school district, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Hodge was an unlikely smuggler — a family man with a middle-class home in southwest Fort Worth. He was a member of the National Honor Society in high school and had a clean criminal record and a group of friends who staunchly defended him when the accusations first hit.

The smuggling ring was taken down on June 7, 2007, when Pfc. Jose Rodrigo Torres was pulled over on Interstate 35 in a government-leased van with 24 illegal immigrants inside.

Hodge's role, according to his guilty plea, was to ensure that Torres could drive through a checkpoint without arousing suspicion.

A spokesman at the Guard headquarters in Austin said no decision has been made about the soldiers' military status.