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Man facing deportation for 2004 crime gets pardon hearing

April 10, 2019

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — An auto shop owner facing deportation to Lebanon for crimes committed 14 years ago asked state officials for a pardon Wednesday, saying he doesn’t want to again be torn away from everything he loves.

Alain Ata, 34, came to the U.S. with his family at age 10. He spent several years in prison for a pair of burglaries in December 2004, and is seeking a pardon to remain in the country.

While Ata’s request comes at a time when the Trump administration has been cracking down on illegal immigration, federal immigration officials started deportation proceedings in his case years ago. Ata’s lawyer said he essentially has remained on “immigration probation” because Lebanon officials haven’t submitted the necessary paperwork yet.

Ata told Gov. Chris Sununu and Executive Council on Wednesday that he is an honest man with a good heart who made mistakes in his youth. He owns an auto repair shop in Manchester, takes care of his elderly parents and is engaged to a woman he met in middle school.

“I want to start the next chapter in our life but find myself struggling to do so because of the uncertainty which lies ahead. I want to get married and have family of my own, but most of all I don’t want to live in fear of having everything taken away from me which I’ve worked so hard,” he told the governor and council. “I hope you see that I am not the teenager who made those foolish mistakes and I hope you give me a second chance.”

In a letter supporting his request, Ata said he was 18 at the time of the crimes, but prosecutors and his lawyer confirmed that he actually had just turned 20. In one burglary, Ata ransacked a home and stole jewelry, a TV and other valuables, said Rockingham County Patricia Conway. In the other, he directed friends to break into the home of his ex-girlfriend’s stepfather. There, they again ransacked the home and smashed photos of Ata’s ex-girlfriend, she said.

In objecting to the pardon, Conway said he was convicted of assaulting a police officer, disorderly conduct and other crimes before the burglaries, and with causing serious injury in a drunken driving crash after. He also was convicted of threatening the ex-girlfriend and violating a protective order by contacting his daughter, she said.

“By petitioning for a pardon, the defendant is essentially asking this council and the governor to ignore all the careful and thoughtful decision making by law enforcement officials and our judiciary, including the police, the county attorney’s office, a superior court justice and the New Hampshire Supreme Court,” she said. “Moreover, it’s the state’s position that the victims in criminal cases deserve finality and closure.”

The council, which did not debate the request or make a decision, also heard from Ata’s sister, who broke down in tears as she described her fears that he would be sent back to a war-torn, poverty-stricken country.

“My brother will have zero chance at survival,” she said. “Granting my brother a pardon today is like saving him from a death sentence.”

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This story has been corrected to show that Ata committed the crimes at age 20, not 18 as he stated in a previous letter to state officials.