Friday, July 8, 2011

Illegal immigrant found guilty after federal trial in Scranton (Times-Tribune)

Illegal immigrant found guilty after federal trial in Scranton

Published: July 8, 2011

A West African man found guilty of hindering deportation will serve no more prison time, a federal judge in Scranton ruled Thursday, though he will remain in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials until he is deported.

Gossi Niakate, age unavailable, has been held in a Pike County detention facility since 2009, about five years after he was ordered by ICE officials to be deported to Mali, Africa, according to court officials.

Mr. Niakate came to the U.S. in 1989 on a temporary visa, but did not leave the United States after his visa expired in 1990.

A jury found Mr. Niakate guilty Thursday afternoon. Hindering deportation carries up to four years in prison. Mr. Niakate, who has spent the past 20 months in custody while awaiting trial on the charge, had asked to be sentenced immediately.

U.S. District Judge James M. Munley then sentenced Mr. Niakate to time served, but reminded him that he still faces deportation.

"It's time you accept the fact you will be deported," the judge said.

Federal public defender Hervery Young said Mr. Niakate was living in Philadelphia when he was discovered by ICE agents to be in the country illegally.

ICE officials have attempted to put him on a commercial plane back to Mali or the Ivory Coast four times, starting in the fall of 2009. Three of those times, Mr. Niakate was removed from the plane for causing disturbances when he told agents he feared he would be killed or prosecuted if he returned to Mali or the Ivory Coast, Mr. Young said.

The defense lawyer said he has no reason to believe his client's fears are unfounded, adding Mr. Niakate testified earlier this week that he is willing to accept deportation to anywhere other than Mali or the Ivory Coast.

The U.S. attorney's office did not return phone calls seeking comment on the case Thursday.

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