Man Acquitted in Terror Case Faces Deportation
Sunday, March 2, 2008
MIAMI -- The case of the "Liberty City Seven" stymied jurors. After a three-month trial late last year, they deadlocked on nearly all of the charges regarding the purported plot by several men to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago.
The one thing jurors could agree upon, however, was that one of the men, Lyglenson Lemorin, 33, was not guilty.
"I was excited," Lemorin said of his reaction on the December day that the verdict was announced. "I wanted to see my family."
Yet more than two months after his acquittal on charges of supporting terrorism, Lemorin remains incarcerated, and U.S. immigration officials are moving to deport him to Haiti, which he left more than 20 years ago. Officials are asking an administrative judge to order his deportation based on the same charges that the jury dismissed.
The government's effort to punish Lemorin despite the acquittal is drawing fire from his attorneys and some legal observers as an attempt to seek retribution in a high-profile case that prosecutors lost after a fair trial.
Even the jury foreman -- who said he had been willing to convict some of Lemorin's co-defendants -- said the move to deport Lemorin seems unfair.
"It's kind of outrageous that the guy was cleared after we spent three months at trial, and now they're continuing to go after him," said Jeff Agron, 46, an educator. "They're getting a second bite at the apple. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense."
Caught in the middle is Lemorin, a father of two, a Haitian immigrant who came here as a child and is a permanent legal resident of the United States.
"It's not just double jeopardy -- it's sour grapes," said Lemorin's criminal defense attorney, Joel DeFabio. "It's a mind set at the Department of Justice: 'We don't lose -- and if we can get you another way, we will.' "
Barbara Gonzalez, a spokeswoman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said Lemorin "will get due process."
Legally, there is nothing to bar the government from pursuing immigration sanctions against Lemorin, experts said, though such action is rare after an acquittal. The immigration charges are a civil matter, and a judge will apply a less strict standard of evidence to the charges that were brought at the criminal trial.
"This is one of those unfortunate instances where common sense and constitutional law diverge," said Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at American University who has followed the case.