|in which my cousin goes to jail.....|
- Monday, May 1 2017, 20:20:06 (UTC)|
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I'm truly sorry that Robert brought this upon himself....his motives may have been good but his method harmed many people...I wonder if you can use, as your justification, that you helped ten people, never mind the twenty you hurt...Robert cynically appealed to the phobia growing in this country against Muslims, in this case, Iraqis..his own people whether they were Christian or not...that part I find unforgivable.
..note; whenever white people, who are not Christian zealots, refer to us, they don't say "Assyrian", and for good reason; we simply have not produced a convincing argument that we have anything to do with the ancients, anything more than what anyone from Iraq can make, but nothing exclusive to us as Christians.
A former north suburban immigration lawyer known for advocating on behalf of Syrian and Iraqi Christians was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison Wednesday for falsifying paperwork in a bid to help clients win asylum in the United States on bogus claims of torture and religious persecution.
In denying Robert DeKelaita's request for probation, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly said the decadelong fraud scheme has "a ripple effect" that erodes the public's trust in the country's immigration system.
"We're seeing it right now," Kennelly said. "When people don't have faith in a system, it's much easier ... to cut it back or do away with it."
Still, Kennelly's sentence was below the approximately 3 1/2 years in prison sought by prosecutors, who argued that DeKelaita was a master manipulator of a process that relies on truthfulness.
"He learned its loopholes and gamed them, fitting his carefully drafted lies into what he knew asylum officers to be looking for, matching those lies with media reports of real events in (his clients') home countries," Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrianna Kastenek and Lindsay Jenkins wrote in a recent court filing.
Kennelly said he found the case to be a "mixed bag," especially when it came to DeKelaita's motives. He didn't appear to get rich off the scheme or overcharge clients, Kennelly said. In the end, it appeared he'd simply "decided that whatever he needed to do to get these people into the country ... was justifiable."
"I'm not sure whether that's aggravating or mitigating," the judge said. "Maybe it's some of both."
DeKelaita, 54, of Glenview, was found guilty by a federal jury last year of conspiracy to commit asylum fraud, submitting a false statement to the government to obtain asylum, lying in an asylum application and suborning perjury from a client.
But Kennelly later reversed the verdicts on all but the conspiracy count on technical grounds. The judge said Wednesday his sentence would have been the same if the convictions on all the counts had stood.
DeKelaita was charged in September 2014 with accepting fees to submit false information on behalf of clients who were foreign nationals and coaching them on how to lie during interviews with the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency.
Seeking to win asylum for clients, DeKelaita used false applicant names, religions, dates of entry into the U.S., birthdays and family histories and wrote up phony accounts of rape, murder and other religious persecution at the hands of reputed Islamic extremists in Iraq, prosecutors said.
In one case, DeKelaita helped a client identified in court records as "S.H." fill out an application for asylum in 2002. In the application, S.H. falsely stated he was arrested by Iraqi security forces in May 2000, held at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison, and beaten and tortured for months, prosecutors alleged.
"None of this is true," prosecutors said in a court filing in 2015. "In fact, S.H. was in Germany when these events purportedly occurred."
In their sentencing filing, prosecutors said DeKelaita had shown no remorse for his actions. In fact, after he was convicted, he sent a letter to his clients saying the government had forced or coerced witnesses to testify falsely and that he had "cheated no one," prosecutors said.
Prosecutors also pointed to secretly recorded conversations in which DeKelaita instructed one client not to tell anyone that her submission to immigration officials was falsified because they would "get in big trouble."
"Stick to the same story," DeKelaita said in one phone call with the client, according to court records. "If you confess, it never works in your favor."
In asking for probation, DeKelaita's lawyer, Michael Nash, said his client has already suffered the shame of a felony conviction and the loss of his law license.
DeKelaita emigrated to the U.S. from Iraq with his family when he was 10, fleeing the oppressive Baath regime after one of his uncles had been killed and both parents had suffered discrimination "first hand," Nash wrote in a recent court filing.
After graduating from law school, DeKelaita dedicated his practice to helping others find asylum in the U.S., eventually gaining the trust of the city's insular Assyrian community, Nash said.
"People saw his hard work and his willingness to help others, and they looked up to him," Nash said.
DeKelaita chose not to make a statement in court and showed no reaction to the judge's sentence. The two-hour hearing was attended by dozens of relatives and supporters, many of whom had also packed the judge's courtroom throughout the three-week trial.
Two interpreters who worked with DeKelaita -— Adam Benjamin and Yousif Yousif — were also charged for intentionally mistranslating answers given by clients and adding testimony they had not given in an effort to secure asylum on their behalf.
Benjamin, 63, pleaded guilty in April 2015 to one count of fraud and was sentenced to six months in prison, records show. Meanwhile, prosecutors have agreed to defer prosection of Yousif if he stays out of trouble, according to court records.
...how would we feel if someone used slanders against Assyrians to benefit Muslims? At least he'll go to a farm somewhere...not a real prison, but he's lost his law license and that hurts his family...so, in the end, what good did he really do?
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