AUGUSTA — Supporters of a Waterville man deported to Haiti earlier this year made emotional pleas Thursday to a board that will recommend to Gov. Paul LePage whether to pardon his underlying 10-year-old trafficking conviction.

Such a pardon, should it be recommended by the Governor’s Board of Executive Clemency and approved by the governor, would not bring Lexius Saint Martin back to the U.S. automatically, but it would help pave the way for his attorney, Evan Fisher, to appeal to federal officials in the effort.

“I won’t say it opens the door; it cracks the door,” Fisher said in response to a question from board Chairwoman Pamela Ames about what effect a pardon would have on Lexius’ ability to return to the U.S.

Ames said the board’s recommendation to the governor will not be made public — that Fisher will be notified by mail of the governor’s decision.

She said a pardon does not expunge a criminal record. The conviction still stands, but it can be annotated that it has been pardoned by the governor of the state of Maine, she said.

Lexius Saint Martin has been in Haiti since February, when he was deported after being arrested Jan. 2 on the Waterville street where he lives. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials arrested him as he was leaving his house to go to work.

In 2007, he was arrested for trafficking in cocaine. He was convicted in 2008, served seven months in jail and vowed never to get involved in anything illegal again. However, he had violated his immigration status. An immigration judge ordered his removal.

He was taken to Texas, where he awaited deportation, but he was released when Haiti suffered an earthquake and could not take people back. The deportation order, however, was not rescinded.

In 2010 he fell in love with his wife, Mindy, and landed a job cleaning for a business at a hospital in Boothbay. Lexius later started his own successful business, LMD Cleaning Services.

He had come to the U.S. with his father and siblings in 1994 when he was 11. Classified as a refugee, he was in the U.S. legally and had green card status. He attended school in Florida and later came to Maine to work in the blueberry fields and stayed.

On Thursday, about 20 Saint Martin friends, relatives and former colleagues turned out for the hearing, held in the Tyson Building at the state Department of Corrections. Several spoke, including Mindy Saint Martin, 28, and even her husband, who was reached in Haiti via cellphone and placed on speaker phone.

Mindy said her husband has been a wonderful father to their children, Donovan, 5, and Marcus, 2. He has not met their daughter, Mya, who was born in May. 

Saint Martin, 35, turned his life around after he served time for the 2007 trafficking charge, checked in with immigration officials as required, got a job, got married, started his business, had three children who are U.S. citizens, and was living the American dream, according to those who spoke on his behalf.

‘EXTRAORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCES’

Ames, the board chairwoman, had asked Fisher, Lexius Saint Martin and other speakers Thursday to explain what “extraordinary circumstances” had brought them to the hearing, as such circumstances are among the criteria being examined to determine a recommendation to the governor.

Wayne Printy, chief financial officer for LincolnHealth, which operates hospitals, physician practices, long-term care facilities and health centers, said LincolnHealth employed Lexius’ business, LMD Cleaning, at its St. Andrews campus in Boothbay Harbor.

Before the hearing Thursday, Printy said Saint Martin’s reliability was “incredible,” and LincolnHealth had gone through three firms to try to replace Saint Martin, but it has been difficult.

Saint Martin’s sister, Katia Saint Martin, flew to Maine from Florida to speak on his behalf. She said their parents and six children came to the U.S. legally about 25 years ago as their father faced persecution in Haiti, where there was a lot of civil unrest. It was difficult adjusting to the new culture, language and life in the U.S., she said. The children were bullied in school because they were immigrants, and Lexius was always the protective big brother, she said.

“Lexius was always remorseful about the mistake he had made in his past,” she said, urging the board to issue a favorable recommendation.

“His current separation from his children is a harsh punishment for his children,” she said.

On Thursday, the panel heard 18 requests for pardon recommendations.

‘I MADE A STUPID CHOICE’

With Saint Martin on speaker cellphone, Ames asked him to explain how he got involved in trafficking in crack cocaine in 2007.

He said he was working at Walmart and had friends who were involved in drugs and he always wanted to please people.

“At the time, I was young and I made a stupid choice,” he said.

There appeared to be some confusion as to how many times he had sold drugs. Ames said that the original indictment had three different dates on it — March 1, 9 and 16, 2007. She asked if he had sold three different times. Saint Martin said there should only have been one date, to which Ames asked if he only sold one time.

“Yes, one time,” he said.

But later in the hearing, Griffin said that in 2007, the allegations were that he sold at least twice.

“Is that accurate?”

“Yes,” Saint Martin replied.

He said he does not have much of a life in Haiti, which is in turmoil, and where he lives in a shack with no running water or electricity. There are no jobs, he eats beans and rice and gets sick on some food and water. Some food, he said, he can barely eat because his system is not used to it.

Ames asked if, when he pleaded guilty to criminal charges, his attorney at the time explained to him that as a felon, he would be deported automatically. She also asked if, when he came to the U.S., he was told if he was ever convicted of a felony, he would be deported. He answered no to her questions.

Saint Martin said that while he was on probation after serving his time, he always checked in with immigration officials and never missed an appointment, and they told him he was fine, so he was not fearful of being deported. Ames asked what his reaction was when he was taken by immigration officials.

“I was shocked. I was shaken. I was crying like a baby because I knew I’d never see my kids again and it was just — it was awful,” he said.

Ames asked if he had any warning prior to being detained, to which he said he had not.

“It was just, one morning I got up to go to work and my life’s over,” he said.

Fisher told the panel that Saint Martin is more an American than a Haitian, as he had lived here 25 years. He is the model of what the state wants people to be like when they leave the criminal justice system, according to Fisher.

Not having Saint Martin at home poses an extraordinary hardship for his family, which has had to ask the state for help in making ends meet and feeding the children, Fisher said. “It’s a hardship for everyone in the state because we all foot the bill.”

 

Lexius Saint Martin with his wife, Mindy Saint Martin and their two sons.


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