Mother of Norwich murder victim working with attorney on deportation policy

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Wendy Hartling, mother of Norwich homicide victim Casey Chadwick, said it was as if her daughter had been killed all over again when she learned, a few days after Chadwick's death, that her accused murderer should have been deported after serving a lengthy prison sentence for a violent crime.

"If our federal agencies had been on top of this, my daughter still would be here with us," Hartling said in an interview Thursday at the office of New London attorney Chester Fairlie.

Hartling is working with Fairlie to learn more about the case of Jean Jacques and about deportation policy. Though it is unclear what legal action she could take, she said she hopes one day to tell her story to Congress. 

"I want Casey's death to mean something after this, and I'm going to do all I can to make sure she did not die in vain," Hartling said.

Norwich police allege that on June 15, Jacques, a 40-year-old Haitian national, stabbed Chadwick, 25, to death and left her body in the bedroom closet of her Norwich home. 

Questions linger as to why Jacques, who came to the United States through Guantanamo, Cuba in 1991, was not deported back to his home country after serving a 16-year-sentence for an attempted murder conviction.

Released in 2012 to the custody of the U.S. Immigration and Customs and Enforcement, he was set free after a failed deportation attempt.

Charged with a parole violation in 2014, he was returned to prison for about six months, when he was once again turned over to the custody of ICE and again set free without being deported.

About five months later, Chadwick was dead.

Fairlie and lawmakers, including U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, said they have serious concerns about the failed deportation policy and will be asking some hard questions at the federal level. 

Officials with ICE say they took the proper steps by detaining Jacques when he was initially released from prison in 2012 but cannot indefinitely hold someone when a country will not accept them.

ICE officials provided a timeline of events to document their assertion that ICE “takes its mission to remove foreign national criminals seriously, and uses every resource at its disposal to carry out that mission,” ICE spokesman Shawn Neudauer said in a statement provided to The Day.

In Jacques' case, ICE's efforts to obtain documents proving Jacques was a Haitian citizen, from both Jacques and through Haitian officials, were unsuccessful. Government officials in Haiti would not accept his return without those documents, Neudauer said in the statement.

The missing documents appear to represent the crux of the matter being explored by Courtney and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who have both been apprised of the issue, according to their staff.

While Neudauer did not identify which Haitian officials ICE worked with to obtain documents for Jacques, he said in his statement that "ICE's ability to remove foreign nationals relies on the close cooperation with our foreign law enforcement partners."

Immigration officials had shown interest in Jacques' deportation dating back to May 15, 2001, when he was charged with violations of the Immigration and Nationality Act — essentially a foreign national committing a serious felony.

On Nov. 5, 2002, the Executive Office for Immigration Review in Hartford ordered Jacques removed to Haiti. Immigration officials placed an immigration detainer on Jacques to ensure he would be transferred into their custody upon release from state prison.

Jacques unsuccessfully tried twice, once in 2002 and again in 2009, to appeal his removal. He eventually served his sentence, was paroled in 2012 and released into ICE custody.

ICE held Jacques for more than six months at ICE detention facilities, first in Massachusetts and later Louisiana, according to Michael Lawlor, the state’s Undersecretary for Criminal Justice Policy and Planning.

Jacques was released by ICE in 2012 without notification to state officials, Lawlor said. He showed up back in Norwich and “to his credit,” he checked in with the probation department, which referred him to parole officials.

Jacques made the case to parole officials that he wanted to move to New Jersey. Early in 2013, Jacques’ request to transfer his parole to New Jersey, pursuant to an interstate compact, was accepted.

Sometime in 2014 Connecticut parole officials received a report that Jacques had been showing up at St. Vincent de Paul Place in Norwich, a community meal center, for several months when he was supposed to be in New Jersey.

As a result of him leaving New Jersey without permission, Jacques was found to have violated his parole in 2014. He was extradited back to Connecticut, where he served about six months in prison.

He was released on Jan. 16, 2015, back into ICE custody, according to the state Department of Correction. Lawlor said it appears he was not detained by ICE at that time.

On June 15, Chadwick's body was found. The same night, Jacques was arrested by Norwich police for allegedly selling crack cocaine, part of a sting operation to get him into custody while they worked to obtain a warrant for his arrest in the murder.

Congressman Courtney met with ICE officials July 23 to discuss the case and seek answers to some of the questions.

“Unquestionably, there was a breakdown in the system that allowed a convicted felon with a deportation order to return to the Norwich community,” Courtney said in a statement to The Day. “ICE confirmed that they are conducting an ongoing internal investigation into the handling of this case, and reiterated their position that legal precedent prevented them from detaining Jacques indefinitely.”

“Although the meeting clarified some aspects of the case, I — along with the Norwich community — have serious remaining concerns and questions that I will continue to pursue at the federal level.”

ICE’s authority to detain individuals is limited by a 2001 U.S. Supreme Court decision outlined in Zadvydas v. Davis which, with some exceptions, limits the detention of aliens to six months, according to Jon Bauer, a clinical professor of law at the University of Connecticut School of Law and director of the Asylum and Human Rights Clinic.

He said the Supreme Court case involved the detention of several criminals whom the U.S. was trying to deport but could not find a country to take them. The court raised the question of due process rights under the constitution — that the government could not hold deportable aliens indefinitely simply because a country was unwilling to take them.

“The Supreme Court said indefinite detention, particularly in civil proceedings, is generally unconstitutional,” Bauer said. “It’s a complex situation, but when someone is under an order of removal they can only be removed if some other country will take them.”

“People were kind of languishing in immigration detention for a long time,” he said.

He said there is a narrow set of exceptions that could lead to longer detentions, but those revolve around “clear and convincing evidence” a person is dangerous.

He said it would take evidence such as active threats or mental illness to prove Jacques was an imminent threat to others. A conviction for a serious crime in the past is not enough.

“It’s very difficult for ICE to hold someone for more than six months unless they can show a country is willing to take someone back in the near future,” Bauer said. “In this case, if Haiti is not going to take him back … ICE would have had little choice but to release him unless they can prove that he was a danger.”

“People are released all the time after committing dangerous crimes. I think people may be less comfortable when they are not U.S. citizens,” Bauer said.

He also said immigrations officials can put pressure on foreign governments, or if the felon is released in the U.S. they can impose monitoring requirements, such as an ankle bracelet.

“I don’t know how vigorous ICE's efforts were to deport this gentleman,” Bauer said. “It sounds like this is a result of being no place to send this guy. It doesn’t happen all the time, but it does happen.”

Fairlie, the New London attorney, said ICE had 13 years — plenty of time — to ensure that Haiti found Jacques' birth records. He noted that in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that shapes deportation policy, the justices invited Congress to pass further legislation if they wanted to fix the issue.

In dissenting opinion in Zadvydas v. Davis, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that the majority opinion "was going to put deportation in a fog," Fairlie said.

Fairlie suggested ICE and the administration could go to the approximately 12 countries that won't accept deportees and tell them, "If your people want visas (to come to the United States), you're going to have to cooperate in taking deportees."

Also, he said, they could withhold grants or relief money from countries that won't cooperate.

"This is not a criticism of immigrants in general," Fairlie said. "There are many immigrants of good quality who are working hard. This is a criticism of immigrants who have committed serious crimes, aggravated felonies, and are supposed to be deported."

Jacques appears to have arrived in the United States, along with tens of thousands of other refugees, following a 1991 coup that overthrew Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide. 

At a court hearing in his February 1996 murder case, Jacques testified through a Haitian Creole interpreter that in 1991, at age 17, he left Haiti on a boat and went to Guantanamo, Cuba.

He said a cousin in New York City petitioned immigration officials to allow him entry, and he arrived in Brooklyn in August 1992. He said he worked factory and restaurant jobs before moving to Norwich in 1995.

In Norwich, he said he operated a clothing store on Franklin Street called the Plaza International.

Jacques testified that he had a Social Security card and had filled out income tax forms while working in New York City. It was unclear what his immigration status was at the time of his first arrest.

g.smith@theday.com

Twitter: @SmittyDay

k.florin@theday.com

Twitter: @KFLORIN

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