Kala Rains and her husband owned a small ranch in rural southern California. After her husband died, everything seemed to go downhill for her.
Temptation came knocking in 2013 when a man said he would give her $300 to let two Mexican aliens stay one night at her ranch. She agreed, but one night turned into two, and then into five days. She did not know that the man she spoke with was part of a small smuggling group that had been infiltrated by a federal law enforcement agent.
Kala was arrested and convicted of conspiracy to bring in aliens. She was sentenced to 33 months in prison, plus the forfeiture of her $175,000 ranch as a fine.
This level of punishment for letting two undocumented individuals spend a few days on her ranch was wildly out of proportion and, as her lawyer and the Liberty Project agreed, a probably violation of the Eigth Amendment’s “cruel and unusual punishment” clause. Her attorney, Rick Barnett, explained to the Court that in the three years prior to this case, there were 1,750 defendants in 555 cases in San Diego County. Similar fines were imposed in only four cases, and the largest fine was $2,500. The seizure of the ranch was 70 times greater than the largest previous fine.
In January of 2017, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Rains’ convictions on “bringing” two undocumented aliens to the US, aiding and abetting, and conspiracy to bring in aliens. They also overturned the seizure of Rains’ ranch. They sent the remaining parts of the case, transporting and harboring aliens, back to the district court for resentencing.
Time had gone by during the lengthy appeals process: Kala Rains had served 27 months in prison before she was released.
FLASH UPDATE: From Kayla’s Attorney Rick Barnett
“As you are aware, the 9th Circuit reversed some of Kala’s convictions and ordered the case remanded for a new forfeiture hearing.
At the original hearing, the court ordered her ranch forfeited in its entirety. At the resentencing/new forfeiture hearing, the court agreed to reduce the forfeiture from a complete and total forfeiture of the proceeds of the sale of the ranch ($150,000) to $20,000. Obviously, this was a great victory and Kala was totally thrilled. She specifically asked that I pass on her gratitude to the DKT Liberty Project for funding her appeal. She’s been out of custody now for 14 months with no problems and is anxious to move on with her life.”