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Fitzroy Delgado Campbell v. Eric H. Holder

October 19, 2012



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Boudin, Circuit Judge.

Before Boudin, Selya and Dyk,*fn1 Circuit Judges.

Fitzroy Delgado Campbell seeks review of a Board of Immigration Appeals ("BIA") decision ordering his removal. Campbell, a lawful permanent resident of the United States, was arrested in June 2006 and charged under Connecticut law with two counts of sexual assault in the fourth degree as well as two counts of risk of injury to a minor. In a plea bargain, both sexual assault charges and one of the two risk-of-injury counts were dismissed, and Campbell entered a plea of nolo contendere to one count of risk of injury to a minor under section 53-21(a)(1) of the Connecticut General Statutes.

That statute (the emphasis is ours) reads as follows:

Any person who . . . wilfully or unlawfully causes or permits any child under the age of sixteen years to be placed in such a situation that the life or limb of such child is endangered, the health of such child is likely to be injured or the morals of such child are likely to be impaired, or does any act likely to impair the health or morals of any such child . . . shall be guilty of a class C felony Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 53-21(a)(1) (West 2006).

The maximum sentence for a violation of section 53-21(a)(1) is ten years imprisonment plus a $500 fine. Act of May 30, 1995, Conn. Pub. Act. No. 95-142, § 1, 1995 Conn. Legis. Serv. P.A. 95-142 (West). Following the plea agreement and as contemplated, the judge sentenced Capmbell to five years in prison with the sentence fully suspended, and five years of probation. Among the conditions of the probation, the judge ordered Campbell to undergo sex offender evaluation and treatment, to have no contact with the child whom he was charged with endangering, and to have no unsupervised contact with any minor children under sixteen.

On November 2, 2010, the Department of Homeland Security ("DHS") began removal proceedings under the Immigration and Nationality Act ("INA") § 240, 8 U.S.C. § 1229a (2006). The notice asserted that Campbell was removable on three separate grounds: -that Campbell had been "convicted of a crime of domestic violence, a crime of stalking, or a crime of child abuse, child neglect, or child abandonment," INA § 237(a)(2)(E)(i), 8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2)(E)(i); -that Campbell had been convicted of a "crime of violence," as defined by INA § 101(a)(43)(F), 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(43)(F); and -that Campbell had been convicted under a "law relating to murder, rape, or sexual abuse of a minor," INA § 101(a)(43)(A), 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(43)(A).

The latter two offense categories--"crime of violence" and "murder, rape, or sexual abuse of a minor"--qualify as aggravated felonies under the INA, and a permanent resident who is convicted of an aggravated felony is not only subject to removal but ineligible for cancellation of removal. INA § 240A(b)(1)(C), 8 U.S.C. § 1229b(b)(1)(C); Emile v. INS, 244 F.3d 183, 184-85 (1st Cir. 2001). By contrast, "[a]liens who have committed child abuse [as opposed to sexual abuse of a minor] are not considered aggravated felons and are eligible for cancellation of removal" at the discretion of the Attorney General. Guerrero-Perez v. INS, 242 F.3d 727, 728 (7th Cir. 2001).

Campbell, represented by counsel, appeared before an immigration judge ("IJ") in Boston on May 26, 2011. In an oral decision, the IJ ruled that Campbell was removable on all three of the grounds asserted by DHS--child abuse, crime of violence, and sexual abuse of a minor--and that as an aggravated felon, Campbell was ineligible for cancellation of removal. In so concluding, the IJ relied on the facts asserted by the prosecution in the February 2007 plea colloquy as well as "the record as a whole."

Campbell sought review by the BIA, which affirmed the IJ's ruling on October 31, 2011. The BIA addressed only the government's argument that Campbell had been convicted of sexual abuse of a minor; it did not address the government's arguments with respect to the child-abuse and crime-of-violence grounds for removal. Campbell then petitioned this court for review. INA § 242(b)(1), 8 U.S.C. § 1252(b)(1). Although Campbell was removed to Jamaica after this court denied a motion for a stay, his appeal remains viable. Nken v. Holder, 556 U.S. 418, 424 (2009).

Where the government asserts that a non-citizen has been convicted of a crime rendering him removable, the government must so prove by "clear and convincing evidence." Conteh v. Gonzales, 461 F.3d 45, 52 (1st Cir. 2006), cert. denied, 551 U.S. 1148 (2007); see also INA § 240(c)(3)(A), 8 U.S.C. § 1229a(c)(3)(A). Whether the offense for which the non-citizen was convicted constitutes a ground for removal--or, in dispute here, an "aggravated felony" precluding cancellation of removal--is a legal issue subject to de novo review by this court. Ramirez v. Mukasey, 520 F.3d 47, 48 (1st Cir. 2008); Conteh, 461 F.3d at 52.

The fourth degree sexual assault charges against Campbell, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53a-73a (West 2006), were dismissed, so our concern is solely with the endangerment offense limned in section 53-21(a)(1) to which Campbell pled nolo contendere. Both language and precedent confirm that that statute can be violated by conduct wholly different than sexual assault. The plain language of section 53-21(a)(1) would suggest that any serious willful endangerment of a child's life, limb, health or morals is criminal under the statute, and Connecticut case law confirms this reading.*fn2

One unfamiliar with federal precedent might assume that the next question would be whether Campbell's actual conduct pertaining to the offense comprised "sexual abuse" as that term is used in the INA; but a quite different set of questions are posed by governing case law both for the removal provisions and for analogous provisions which may enhance sentences in the federal criminal context based on prior specified convictions--in particular the Armed Career Criminal Act ("ACCA"), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e), and the career offender guideline, U.S.S.G. § 4B1.2.

When a state or federal statute of conviction encompasses some conduct that would qualify as a predicate offense under the ACCA or career offender guideline and some conduct that would not, governing Supreme Court precedent--as this and most other ...

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