[Ppnews] A Kafkaesque Deportation
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Oct 21 11:43:22 EDT 2009
October 21, 2009
Conviction at Center of Philadelpha Political Controversy
A Kafkaesque Deportation
By LINN WASHINGTON, Jr.
Julio Maldonado faces flying into an uncertain
future if federal authorities succeed in
deporting this former construction worker to
Peru, the South American country he left
39-years-ago as a three-year-old child.
Maldonado faces deportation due to dictates of
the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA).
This law requires expulsion of both illegal
immigrants and legal aliens like Maldonado who have criminal records.
Maldonados predicament is truly Kafkaesque from
the circumstances producing his criminal record
to the fact that federal authorities imprisoned
him for four years based on his refusal to sign his deportation papers.
Maldonado resisted the deportation stressing he
was wrongfully convicted, a claim supported by
medical evidence, a jurys verdict and a judicial ruling.
The case involving Maldonado and his cousin Denis
Calderon has become a mini-controversy in
Philadelphia, Pa, the city where they were convicted in 1997.
The prosecutor who convicted these cousins Seth
Williams is widely recognized as front-runner
in this years race to become Philadelphias next
District Attorney. If the highly qualified
Williams wins the November election as expected,
he will become the first African-American elected
as Philadelphias top prosecutor.
Williams terms the predicament of Maldonado and
Calderon (who also faces deportation to Peru)
unfortunate but Williams vigorously denies that
their convictions constitute a miscarriage of justice.
What I did in that case was stand up for the
victim! Williams said recently. Maldonado and Calderon were found guilty.
An advocate for Maldonado/Calderon, their cousin
Maria Rolon, decries the convictions and
deportation of her kin as unjust persecution.
They were the victims of a hate crime and have
been discriminated against since then, said
Rolon, whose advocacy actions include creating a
In August 1996 Maldonado and Calderon were
attacked in the Oxford Circle section of
Northeast Philadelphia by a crowd of drunken
white males shouting racist slurs.
Maldonado, who lived in New York City at the
time, was visiting Calderon who lived in Oxford
Circle, the only Latino family in a predominately white area.
When the cousins walked towards a neighborhood
bar to buy a beer, crowd members confronted them,
shouting anti-black slurs, mistakenly thinking they were African-American.
When Calderon told crowd members that he and
Maldonado were Latinos the slurs shifted from
N-word based to anti-Hispanic epithets. As the
cousins retreated towards Calderons home members
of the crowd chased them, raining beer bottles on them before pouncing.
During that attack, one member of the crowd,
18-year-old Christian Saladino, collapsed and was
hospitalized comatose. Police arrested the
cousins after crowd members told police the
cousins attacked them and pounded Saladino with metal objects.
Police did not lodge any charges against any of
the drunken attackers who freely admitted using
racist slurs, throwing bottles and battling with the cousins.
Calderon says one drunk slugged him as he talked
with a policeman and the officer ignored that
assault. Yet when Calderon sought to hit that
attacker, the policeman handcuffed Calderon.
Seemingly biased police enforcement in racially
charged incidents is a recurring problem in the
predominately white Northeast section of
Philadelphia. Rolon said police and prosecutors
also ignored the intense intimidation unleashed
on neighbors supportive of Calderon.
While Seth Williams currently characterizes that
1996 clash as a street fight between a large
crowd of white teenagers and the two Hispanic
males, Rolon says that attack by a racist mob
forced her cousins to defend themselves.
Williams concedes the cousins had a right to
self-defense but says the pair lost their right
to self-defense when they escalated the fight by
using weapons: a baseball bat and a Club auto steering wheel lock.
Williams argued in court that Saladino was an
innocent bystander who Maldonado maliciously
struck on the base of his skull with the Club.
That blow, Williams said recent, triggered a
hemorrhage that incapacitated Saladino.
Maldonado had taken the Club from his car as attackers pummeled him.
Maldonado admitted swinging the Club at a man
he saw stabbing Calderon but testified that he
merely grazed the shoulder of this assailant
prosecutor Williams later championed in court as the victim Saladino.
After Maldonado freed Calderon from those men
bashing him, Calderon ran into his house, telling
his wife to call 911. Rolon said Calderon went
back outside to rescue Maldonado from the crowd,
taking a bat with him because crowd members were
on his porch threatening to burn the house down.
Williams says Calderon should have waited for
police to arrive instead of leaving his house armed with that baseball bat.
Williams, Philadelphias former Inspector
General, remains convinced that Maldonado blow caused Saladinos coma.
Williams maintains this position despite no
medical records specifically documenting blunt
force trauma as the cause of Saladinos collapse.
For example, medical records cited in the most
recent Pa appellate ruling in this case list the
cause of Saladinos collapse and subsequent coma as unknown.
EMT personnel who treated Saladino at the clash
scene, ER doctors and CAT scans did not find any
signs of blunt force trauma to Saladinos head or
body consistent with accounts from Saladinos
friends who testified later that the cousins
brutally beat Saladino on the head, back and stomach with those metal objects.
Tests did prove that Saladino was legally drunk
at the time of his collapse. EMT personnel
suspected a drug overdose and gave an overdose
countering injection. Medical tests were not
performed to determine drug levels in Saladinos body.
Rolon faults Williams for downplaying that
Calderon was a hard-working family man and
homeowner with no reason to attack twenty
drunks. She also scores Williams for
sidestepping Saladinos history of arrests for
violence which undercuts contentions that Saladino was a mere bystander.
One appellate ruling noted an arrest of Saladino
days before the brawl for attacking a policeman.
Williams says Saladinos record was irrelevant to
the fact that he was viciously beaten. Saladino
collapsed in front of Calderons house. According
to testimony, Saladino ran to the street in front
of Calderons house after the fight started.
A Philadelphia judge convicted the cousins on
assault and conspiracy charges in 1997, accepting
contradictory testimony from members of that
drunken, racist-slur spewing crowd. The cousins
received identical 2-10-year sentences.
When Saladino died two years after the clash,
prosecutors filed murder charges against
Maldonado and Calderon contending the young mans
death was a direct result of the beating.
But a jury acquitted the cousins based largely on
testimony from a forensic pathologist who
provided evidence that Saladinos rare blood
disorder most likely caused his 1996 collapse.
A report prepared by that pathologist prior to
the murder trial stated it was his opinion that
Christian Saladino could have collapsed as the
result of either a pre-existing natural disease
process or drugs of abuse. However, his medical
condition was not as the result of being struck
by an instrument/weapon such as a club.
That pathologist did not testify during the assault trial.
That murder trial medical testimony caused the
Philadelphia judge who initially convicted the
cousins to overturn their clash related convictions.
But prosecutors appealed that judges ruling,
securing reinstatement of those clash convictions
on a technicality that contradicted their
position during the assault trial of the cousins.
Prosecutors successfully argued that the failure
of the pathologist to testify at the assault
trial did not harm the cousins defense because
their trial lawyers got the prosecutions
principal medical expert to admit that no records
showed Saladinos condition stemmed from external trauma like a beating.
Yes, prosecutors conceded in appellate court what
they had denied in trial court: no medical
records documented that the glancing blow from
Maldonado and/or the alleged beating by Calderon caused Saladinos collapse.
After Maldonado and Calderon served more than two
years in prison for the clash related conviction,
federal authorities initiated deportation
proceedings. When the cousins refused to assist
with their deportation by signing required
papers, the feds imprisoned them in 2005 for failing to cooperate.
Maldonado served four years in a Pennsylvania
jail contracted by federal immigration
authorities. Calderon remains in an immigration
prison in Pa serving the sentence for refusing to
sign his deportation papers. Federal authorities
re-imprisoned Maldonado shortly after his release
months ago and now push for his deportation to Peru.
My cousins are innocent and we know that once
they are deported, its a permanent exile, Rolon said.
I didnt want to go public with this. I just
wanted Seth to do the right thing, acknowledge
that my cousins were victims and oppose their deportation, said Rolon,
Weve been told that Julio was sent to Louisiana
and apparently will be deported, said Rolon said
whos petitioned Pas Governor Ed Rendell for a
full pardon and is separately petitioning
Homeland Security officials to stay her cousins
deportation until Rendell decides the pardon request.
Defenders of Seth Williams say he did his job
properly in prosecuting Maldonado/Calderon for
assault, the later murder charge and challenging their appeals.
In a fair system prosecutors would actively seek to right wrongful convictions.
A Pa Supreme Court ruling in 1889 declared that
the duty of prosecutors is to seek justice
and it is as much the duty of the district
attorney to see that no innocent man suffers as
it is to see that no guilty man escapes.
However, in Philadelphias often perverted
justice system, prosecutors routinely pursue
justice crushing convict-at-all-costs practices
that frequently involve bending or breaking the law.
Nearly two-thirds of the cases where Pa courts
overturned convictions due to misconduct by
prosecutors originated in Philadelphia according
to an extensive investigation conducted by The
Center for Public Integrity examining a 33-year period.
Compounding convict-at-all-costs practices by
Philly prosecutors is their penchant for clawing
to maintain tainted convictions.
Courts have faulted some famous Philly prosecutors for foul practices.
The Pa Supreme Court, in a stinging 1978 ruling,
blasted a then former Philly DA Office official
for misleading testimony in a murder case where
he helped his former colleagues perpetrate a fraud to secure a conviction.
The name of the official specifically cited in
that ruling is Ed Rendell, Pas Governor who
served two terms as Philadelphia District Attorney.
Changing the culture among Philadelphia
prosecutors including eliminating
convict-at-all-costs practices is a key
campaign pledge of Seth Williams
a pledge that
Rolon and others wonder if Williams will fulfill.
Linn Washington Jr. is a columnist for The
Philadelphia Tribune who writes frequently about justice system issues.
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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