NYT – Dire Legal Effects of a Marijuana Cigarette
By DANIEL E. SLOTNIK
When Jerry Lemaine was arrested in Elmont, N.Y., for a single marijuana cigarette in his pocket, a Legal Aid lawyer counseled him to plead guilty because state statutes called for a $100 fine and nothing more. Even though Mr. Lemaine had been caught with a small amount of marijuana years earlier as a teenager, that case had been dismissed.
But Mr. Lemaine, a legal permanent resident, soon discovered that his quick guilty plea had dire consequences. Immigration authorities flew him in shackles to Texas, where he spent three years behind bars, including 10 months in solitary confinement, as he fought deportation to Haiti, a country he had left at age 3.
Under federal rulings that prevailed in Texas, Mr. Lemaine had lost the legal opportunity that rulings in New York would have allowed: to have an immigration judge weigh his offenses, including earlier misdemeanors resolved without jail time, against other aspects of his life, like his nursing studies at Hunter Business School; his care for his little sister, a United States citizen with a brain disorder; and the help he gave his divorced mother, who had worked double shifts to move the family out of a dangerous Brooklyn neighborhood.
Now Mr. Lemaine, 28, is among thousands of non-citizens whose fates may hinge on a case to be argued on Wednesday before the United States Supreme Court, in a challenge to the way the government interprets immigration laws about drug-related convictions. The government maintains that for deportation purposes, two convictions for drug possession add up to the equivalent of drug trafficking, an “aggravated felony” that requires expulsion and prohibits immigration courts from granting exceptions based on individual life circumstances.
That interpretation of laws passed in 1996 has been rejected by four judicial circuits, including New York’s. But two circuits have upheld it, most notably the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which covers Louisiana and Texas — states where the government routinely transfers tens of thousands of immigration detainees each year, mainly from the Northeast.
Government & Politics
An unusual and much-heralded program that gave poor families cash to encourage good behavior and self-sufficiency has so far had only modest effects on their lives and economic situations, according to an analysis the Bloomberg administration released on Tuesday. When the mayor announced the program, he said it would begin with private money and, if it worked, could be transformed into an ambitious permanent government program. But city officials said Tuesday that there were no specific plans to go forward with a publicly financed version of the program. [NYT] (Also see The New York Post.)
On Tuesday, Deputy Mayor Edward Skyler, who manages the city’s Police, Fire and Transportation Departments and the Office of Labor Relations, and who is arguably Mr. Bloomberg’s most powerful aide, said he would take a job at Citigroup in May. [NYT]
Gov. David A. Paterson ordered the delay of $2.1 billion in aid payments to local school districts on Tuesday, saying the state did not have enough cash to pay bills and still end the fiscal year with its budget balanced. Mr. Paterson made the announcement after he and the Legislature failed to agree on a budget deal for the fiscal year that begins on Thursday, a deal that was expected to include provisions to cover the state’s cash crunch for the fiscal year that is ending. [NYT] (Also see The New York Post.)
Unreasonable requests for designer furniture in New York State’s application for federal education funds under the Race to the Top program may have led reviewers to deny the request for the money. One judge responded to the request, which included 24 “executive chairs” that would have cost $550 apiece, saying, “These inclusions compromise the state’s narrative as a careful steward of public funds.” [New York Post] (Also see The Daily News.)
The Department of Education plans to charge two language teachers, Alini Brito and Cindy Mauro, with misconduct, four months after they were discovered naked together by a janitor in an empty classroom at James Madison High School in Midwood, Brooklyn. [Daily News] (Also see The New York Post.)
Crime & Public Safety
A wind-driven deluge broke rainfall records across the Northeast on Tuesday, flooding roads and basements and compounding the lingering damage from a storm two weeks ago. Weather forecasters said the storm made this the wettest March on record in many places, including Boston, Newark and Queens. The National Weather Service said the March total had reached 10.63 inches in Central Park by Tuesday evening, beating the record set in 1983. [NYT]
New York City correction officials are closely monitoring violence in municipal jails after a recent increase in serious assaults and a confrontation Saturday night in which four jail officers were injured. A single assault and brief uptick in violence typically would not draw concern in a system with 13,000 inmates. But it comes as Dora B. Schriro, the city correction commissioner, has proposed eliminating posts and reassigning staff members to deal with a 5 percent cut to the department’s $1 billion budget in the fiscal year that starts July 1. [NYT]
A 29-year-old man was found stabbed to death in his Queens apartment Tuesday afternoon, the police said. The man, identified as Edelbuerto Gonzalez-Andujar, was found in his home at 69-30 62nd Street in Ridgewood, near Glen Ridge Park, the police said. [NYT] (Also see The Daily News.)
Housing & Economy
Tenant advocates and many of his own renters regard Laurence Gluck, a New York landlord, as the scourge of subsidized middle-class housing. But city and federal housing officials looking to rescue a troubled development in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, have begun viewing Mr. Gluck in a different light: as its possible savior. They are negotiating a deal that would allow him to buy Tivoli Towers, a battered building, for $11.25 million, while preserving it as moderately priced housing until 2040. [NYT]
New York’s Economic Development Corporation faces singular problems in marketing the huge Federal Building No. 2 in Sunset Park. The building, a stately 94 years old and 1.1 million square feet, presents potential owners with a number of expensive challenges. [NYT]
People & Neighborhoods
While it is quite common for public school students to express fondness for their alma mater, Martin Raskin, a former ward of New York City’s public schools, takes his veneration extremely seriously. Mr. Raskin has salvaged original furniture and accouterments from Public School 202 at 982 Hegeman Avenue in East New York, Brooklyn, which he attended from 1946 to 1955, tracking down class photos on eBay and arranging reunions of classmates and pilgrimages to former teachers. [NYT]
The Working Families Party created an advertising campaign that uses vulgar acronyms posted on what appear to be Metropolitan Transportation Authority service change announcements to draw attention to the potential cuts and other service issues plaguing the subway system. The authority rejected the advertisements, citing offensive language. [Daily News]