A Utah federal judge ruled Thursday a deported Mexican national who illegally returned to the United States has been punished enough by spending the past seven months in the Salt Lake County Jail.

In arguing for the release of Ignacio Morales-Meraz, 43, defense attorney Ed Brass called the county jail's conditions "atrocious. Seven months in the county jail is equivalent to 21 months in a prison."Judge David Sam said, "I may be willing to do that." The judge then ruled that ordering Morales-Meraz to serve "any further incarceration would be absolutely counterproductive."

Sam sentenced the defendant to seven months and one week, the time he has spent in the county jail since his Feb. 13 arrest. But, because Morales-Meraz is in the country illegally, he was turned over to U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service agents and will be deported again.

Federal prosecutor Richard Lambert did not contest the reduced sentence.