Monthly Archives: February 2012

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Jamaican man to be deported for US$40 robbery

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NEW HAVEN, USA — A Jamaican man is set to be deported after pleading guilty to the robbery of a delivery person in 2008 according to a report in the New Haven Register.

The man, identified as 21-year-old Lance Williams claims he was pressured to plead guilty to a $40 robbery of a food delivery person and did not understand that such a plea made it likely he would be sent back to Jamaica, a country he left when he was 9 years old and where he no longer has family members.

He failed, however, to convince Superior Judge William Bright, in a habeus corpus hearing in October 2011, that he had not been sufficiently apprised of the risk or improperly counseled to plead guilty.

The Department of Homeland Security has gotten tougher on deportations and has adopted a policy that places priority the removal of felons, a category that includes Williams, although it also has a new emphasis on the use of prosecutorial discretion to cut back on the cases it pursues.

Yhe report said President Barack Obama has stepped up the number of deportations and is on track to exceed in his first term the total number of individuals deported by President George W Bush in his eight years in office.

Michael Wishnie, a professor at the Yale Law School, said DHS announced it will target its resources “on the most dangerous and we will no longer seek to deport others. The Lance Williams case is an early test of the seriousness of these policies.”

Wishnie said the clarified rules specify that certain groups of people will be targeted — “serious dangerous criminals, national security threats” — and a small group of others, including veterans and nursing moms, won’t be.

“Most people, like Lance Williams, fall in the broad space between those two polls. The policies on their face are silent as to what the government intends to do with people like Lance Williams who did not clearly fall in either group. If the administration is serious about targeting its resources on the most serious offenders, Lance Williams should be home with his family,” Wishnie said.

Williams, who was 17 at the time and a senior at Hillhouse High School, was with two other friends on Dec. 17, 2008, when they ordered food from A-1 Oriental Kitchen on Whalley Avenue. What is clear is that the owner, Jian Zhehn, was robbed when he made a delivery to an address on Pendleton Street.

No weapon was ever found, but Zhehn, in his statement to the police, said one of the robbers answered the door, but a second, masked person had something in his hand that was covered, but which he thought was a gun.

Williams, a first-time offender, was sentenced to six years, suspended after two years, for robbery in the second degree, a felony. A permanent resident, Williams, now 21, was turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in October after he finished his sentence and has been held at Etowah County Detention Center in Alabama pending his removal from the United States, which may come within a week.

“He doesn’t know anyone there. All his family is here,” said his mother, Joanne Barnaby, who has difficulty with English and said she believed her son, who had no previous record, would qualify for something less than jail time.

Williams told police he did not participate in the robbery, that he had stayed in the van. He said he pleaded guilty on the advice of counsel because he was told one of the young men with him was ready to identify him as the person with a gun and he could end up with a longer sentence.

Williams, in a phone interview, said: “There was no gun.” The court record shows he refused at one point to take the plea deal, but later relented. As part of accepting that deal, he answered “yes” when asked if “his words or conduct, represented that he had a deadly weapon or a dangerous instrument” at the time of the robbery.

Amy Meeks, reentry coordinator for the city of New Haven, said: “We see this a lot, people pleading guilty with no understanding of its consequences.”

Once it is on the record, “it is almost impossible to take back,” Meeks said.

ICE spokesman Ross Feinstein said, “Because Williams is a convicted criminal alien — convicted of a felony — he is an ICE priority.”

He said as of Feb. 6, 451 people had been deported to Jamaica, 383 of whom were convicted criminals, while 1,572 were deported last year, 1,289 of them with criminal records.


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