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Judge raps plan to deport plaintiff

Urges US to let him stay pending lawsuit vs. police

By Jonathan Saltzman

Globe Staff / October 9, 2008

A federal district court judge implored immigration authorities yesterday not to deport a man who spent 19 years in prison after a wrongful conviction in three rapes. She said the deportation should wait until his civil rights lawsuit against the Boston Police Department goes to trial in April.
US District Court Judge Nancy Gertner of Boston said it was "terribly troubling" that Immigration and Customs Enforcement had arrested Ulysses Rodriguez Charles in June on a deportation order and was preparing to return him to his native Trinidad six months before his suit is to be tried.
"It seems to me there's no reason why ICE, having waited this long, can't wait until May," said Gertner, who added that delaying Charles's deportation would give him time to pursue "his civil case, and America will be protected."
The timing of efforts to deport Charles made her wonder "whether ICE has been in touch with the defendants in this case," Gertner added, al though she later said she had no reason to think there was collusion.
Still, Gertner's musing resonated with Charles's mother, Ursula Charles Manzoni, who attended part of a hearing on the civil rights case where her bespectacled 58-year-old son sat quietly next to his lawyer.
"The whole deportation thing is a cooked-up business to deny him his rights to get what's due to him," Manzoni, 78, of the South End, said later. She said Charles lost nearly two decades of his life "for a crime he never dreamed to do, and now when it's time to get his justice, they put him behind bars again."
Assistant US Attorney Mark J. Grady, who represents immigration authorities in a petition by Charles to be freed from Plymouth County jail, responded that there was no evidence of communication between federal authorities and defendants in the civil case.
He also contended that Gertner has no say in the deportation because a 2005 federal law stripped district court judges of authority to review such matters and transferred it to the courts of appeals. The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit has declined to overturn an immigration judge's 2003 order to deport Charles.
"Quite simply, there is no review of the validity of orders of removal, or any claim arising therefrom, outside of the Court of Appeals," Grady said in court papers.
Outside the courtroom, John P. Roache, a lawyer hired to defend Boston in the civil rights claim, said he was unaware of any contact between immigration authorities and the city.
He also said he is working under the assumption that Charles's civil rights case will be tried in April and was taking a deposition from him yesterday at the courthouse.
Charles, a former welder who worked for General Dynamics building Navy ships, was convicted in 1984 of breaking into a Brighton apartment and raping three women in December 1980. He was sentenced to 80 years in prison.
His conviction was overturned in May 2001 and he was freed after DNA testing revealed that semen found on a robe and bedsheet of one of the victims belonged to two other men and that his DNA wasn't found in the apartment.
Charles's criminal defense lawyers contended that police and prosecutors deliberately withheld evidence that could have cleared him.
Suffolk County prosecutors declined to retry the criminal case, saying two decades had passed since the rapes, evidence had been lost, and investigators had died. But they insisted that the DNA evidence did not clear Charles because jurors had been told the rapist did not ejaculate.
In addition, two of the women who were attacked told the Globe after the conviction was overturned that they had no doubts: They said Charles was the man who put a screwdriver to the throat of one of them, forced his way into their apartment, threatened to kill them, and raped them.
After Charles was freed, he was immediately taken into custody by immigration authorities who sought to deport him for other convictions, including one in 1989 for trafficking heroin in prison. But a federal judge released him in August 2002 pending a ruling by an immigration judge.
In October 2003, an immigration judge ordered Charles's deportation, which was upheld by both the Board of Immigration Appeals and the First Circuit. The board and appeals court rejected his argument that he had become a citizen of the United States by filling out a "declaration of intention" with immigration authorities in Boston in 1973.
Charles has continued to fight his deportation and recently raised other arguments, including that immigration authorities are holding him at the jail under an invalid alien registration number.
Charles's mother and wife, Rosalind, said he suffered grievous personal losses while in prison, including the suicide of a daughter. In addition, they said, a son and stepson of Charles's recently returned from serving in Iraq as members of the US Army.
An immigration lawyer Gertner appointed yesterday to represent Charles, Anthony Drago Jr., said he will explore all options to challenge the deportation
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