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June 16, 2009

"Jail time cut for pregnant illegal alien"

The title of this post is the headline of this local article that provides an update on a notable federal sentencing case (discussed here) in which a pregnancy became a reason for a longer prison term:

A pregnant, HIV-positive African woman will give birth in a Portland hospital rather than a federal prison after a U.S. District judge on Monday ordered that she be released on personal recognizance bail while her appeal to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is pending in Boston.

U.S. District Judge John Woodcock last month sentenced Quinta Layin Tuleh, 28, of Cameroon to 238 days in prison — twice as long as the recommended sentence of 114 days — for having false documents....

Tuleh, whose due date is Aug. 29, agreed Monday to remain in Portland while on bail and receive treatment coordinated through the Frannie Peabody Center. The center offers support to people diagnosed with AIDS and the virus that causes the disease....

In imposing the sentence on May 14, Woodcock rejected a 114-day, or time-served, sentence recommended by her attorney and the federal prosecutor, according to a transcript of the hearing. The judge also imposed a sentence that was longer than the zero to six months recommended in the federal sentencing guidelines.

The judge said that to ensure Tuleh received proper medical care through the birth of her child and to increase its chances of being born free of the HIV virus, which causes AIDS, he was sentencing her to remain in jail until two weeks past her due date. Woodcock also said he was concerned that Tuleh would be deported to Cameroon before giving birth if she were to be released earlier.

Testimony on Monday from Putnam and an agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement allayed those concerns, Woodcock said in granting the motion for bail. “I recognize that the sentence turned out to be controversial,” he said. “I can certainly understand how some have misinterpreted what the court intended to do in this case.”

Woodcock said that what he had wanted to do was “to step in between the prison system and the social [safety] net” to ensure that Tuleh remained healthy and that the child was born healthy. “At the time of the sentencing, I had no clear understanding of what the community could do,” Woodcock said. “I had no specifics.”

He got them Monday from Putnam, who testified that Tuleh would be put up in a Portland motel until housing in the city could be found for her. The pregnant woman already has been connected with an obstetrician, virologist and pediatrician for treatment, she said....

A three-judge panel in Boston has agreed to hear the appeal on an expedited schedule, but oral arguments are not expected to be held until late July and early August. In addition to appeals filed by the prosecution and the defense, a group of 15 individuals and organizations have filed in Bangor and Boston a “friend of the court” brief in support of Tuleh. Woodcock said Monday that he found the brief “articulate and helpful” in making his decision about whether to release Tuleh on bail.

June 16, 2009 at 08:17 AM | Permalink


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She should have been deported immediately. Now, she and her defective spawn will cost the innocent taxpayers $millions.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 16, 2009 9:08:00 AM

So why exactly can't deportation status be determined concurrently with incarceration? Why should we have to wait for a criminal to serve whatever sentence they are given before deportation proceedings can even begin. Figure that out as soon as a guilty* verdict comes down and then as soon as the sentence is completed ship the offender home.

I can see allowing some minor grace period for contending issues such as the Convention Against Torture, but the basic fact of deportability should already be established.

* Only required for those in the country legally.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Jun 16, 2009 10:00:19 AM

For practical reasons, they typically don’t hold deportation hearings in jail or prison. While whether someone is deportable is usually easy to determine, it is not always easy to determine if someone is entitled to relief from deportation. Not only might she qualify for relief under the convention against torture, but she might be entitled to asylum, withholding, or some form of discretionary relief.

Also, just because someone has been ordered deported, does not mean the process has ended. It sometimes takes many months to get the necessary travel documents from the other country before the individual can be deported. Sometimes the other country will refuse altogether to accept the person back. Given that this woman has HIV, it wouldn’t surprise me if Cameroon never takes her back, meaning she would spend the rest of her life in the United States under immigration supervision.

Posted by: Immigration | Jun 16, 2009 11:45:39 AM

Unless we have some reason of our own not to return someone they should just be pushed out the plane door. Let the nation of origin decide what to do with their own citizens.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Jun 16, 2009 12:09:01 PM



Posted by: . | Jun 16, 2009 12:32:10 PM

SH: Ditto.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jun 16, 2009 3:45:02 PM

The title of the post accurately reports the headline of the local news story, but it does not accurately report what happened. The judge granted bail pending appeal; he did not "cut" the sentence. A federal judge has no authority to reduce a sentence once it is imposed on the basis, as here, that informed observers point out to the judge that the sentence -- however well intentioned -- is outrageous and unlawful. And certainly not while the case is pending on appeal. I looked at the docket, by the way, and as far as I can see (again contrary to the news story) only the government filed a notice of appeal. Does the government have standing or a statutory grant of power to appeal an illegal sentence that is more harsh than the prosecutor recommended? I've never seen that done before.

Posted by: Peter G | Jun 17, 2009 12:31:18 AM

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