[Ppnews] A Kafkaesque Deportation

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Oct 21 11:43:22 EDT 2009


http://www.counterpunch.org/washington10212009.html

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.

Maldonado’s 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 jury’s 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 year’s race to become Philadelphia’s next 
District Attorney. If the highly qualified 
Williams wins the November election as expected, 
he will become the first African-American elected 
as Philadelphia’s 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 
website <http://denisandjulioandfaith.com/>http://denisandjulioandfaith.com/.

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 Calderon’s 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, Philadelphia’s former Inspector 
General, remains convinced that Maldonado blow caused Saladino’s coma.

Williams maintains this position despite no 
medical records specifically documenting blunt 
force trauma as the cause of Saladino’s collapse. 
For example, medical records cited in the most 
recent Pa appellate ruling in this case list the 
cause of Saladino’s 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 Saladino’s head or 
body consistent with accounts from Saladino’s 
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 Saladino’s 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 Saladino’s 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 Saladino’s record was irrelevant to 
the fact that he was viciously beaten. Saladino 
collapsed in front of Calderon’s house. According 
to testimony, Saladino ran to the street in front 
of Calderon’s 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 man’s 
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 Saladino’s 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 judge’s 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 cousin’s defense because 
their trial lawyers got the prosecution’s 
principal medical expert to admit that no records 
showed Saladino’s 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 Saladino’s 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, it’s a permanent exile,” Rolon said.

“I didn’t 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,

“We’ve been told that Julio was sent to Louisiana 
and apparently will be deported,” said Rolon said 
who’s petitioned Pa’s 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 
only
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 Philadelphia’s 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, Pa’s 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.




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