PORTLAND (AP) – A Portland man who pleaded guilty to a drunken-driving accident in which his sister was killed is asking Gov. John Baldacci to wipe the conviction from his record so he can avoid deportation to Cambodia.

Touch Rin Svay, 24, is scheduled to appear on Thursday before the Governor’s Board on Executive Clemency at the State House. A pardon could be the last chance for Svay to avoid deportation to a country he has never seen.

He was born in a refugee camp in Thailand in 1979, and moved to Maine when he was 5. Although he never became a U.S. citizen, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps after graduating from Deering High School and served honorably until his conviction.

Svay was home on leave from the Marines on May 20, 2001, when he went to a party with his sister and friends. Svay was driving one of five cars that were passing each other on Route 85 in Raymond at 3:30 a.m. Police say he was driving 98 mph when he lost control and crashed into a utility pole.

Sary Svay, 19, was killed in the crash. Her boyfriend Tony Chayarath, 21, was injured but survived.

Svay pleaded guilty to manslaughter and other charges, and asked for a sentence shorter than one year in prison so he could avoid deportation. His mother pleaded with the court for leniency.

“I lost my daughter already,” Soeun Em said in court. “I don’t want to lose my son.”

Superior Court Justice Thomas Humphrey sentenced Svay to six years in prison with all but 18 months suspended. He said no other penalty was necessary.

“I think it would be a horrible and unjust resolution if the strict letter of some administrative requirement results in (Svay) being required to leave this country,” Humphrey said at the time.

Svay finished his prison sentence last summer, and has been free awaiting the completion of his criminal case.

Federal law requires the deportation of foreign nationals who receive sentences longer than one year, including the suspended portion. The Maine Supreme Judicial Court rejected an appeal of Svay’s sentence last July.

The government has become more aggressive about deporting foreign nationals since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, said T.C. Duong, of the Southeast Asian Resource Action Center in Washington, D.C.

“Immigration is considered civil issue, but these people are being treated like criminals,” Duong said. “We have a problem with the lack of due process.”

Pardon applications are reviewed by board members who decide whether to hold a hearing. After the public hearing, the board makes a recommendation to the governor.

Last year 199 people applied, 67 were granted hearings and only six received pardons, though some cases are still pending, the clemency board’s clerk, Judy Leavitt said.


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