In April 2015, my fiancé Souleymane and his friends pulled a prank on another friend, Souleymane’s roommate, pretending to rob him with a plastic air soft gun they had purchased at Walmart. The prank was recorded on video (Souleymane played a victim) and was followed with much laughter. Months later, the roommate decided he no longer wanted to be on the lease and went to the leasing office and told the receptionist he wanted off the lease. When he found out he would be charged fees for early termination, he told the receptionist he had been robbed at gunpoint by his roommate, referring to the prank from three months before. The receptionist immediately called the police and Souleymane was arrested.
He gave his public defender the video of the prank and the names of every person involved, but Souleymane’s public defender did not talk to anyone else who was involved, nor did he show the prosecutor the video that proved Souleymane’s innocence. Instead, he told Souleymane he should plead guilty and avoid a trial. This advice turned out to be exactly what Souleymane should NOT have done. Assuming the public defender had his best interests at heart, Souleymane did as he was advised. He was placed on probation and fined. After the probation was up and the fines were paid, we thought that was the end of it.
Fast forward to 2017, Souleymane, who holds permanent resident alien status (which means he is here legally) in the United States, went to Senegal to visit family. Upon returning to the United States, homeland security stopped him in Chicago and gave him a date for a deferred inspection - October 30th. After eight hours of interrogation and reviewing his files, they released him and instructed him to return November 29, 2017. On the 29th, Souleymane went into the meeting feeling confident it was just a technicality, and after this we could move on.
I accompanied Souleymane to the Homeland Security office and waited in a room next door while he went in to clear things up. Thirty minutes into the meeting, an officer came out and told me they were detaining Souleymane because of the April 2015 case - and ICE was on the way to pick him up. They told me because of the charges he was to be placed on mandatory detainment and ultimately be deported. I wasn’t allowed to see him. Thanks to the help of family - to the tune of $10,000 - I hired two lawyers to fight his case.
On January 22, 2018, the first lawyer went to court to petition to have the charges changed or dropped, knowing full well Souleymane never should have been charged in the first place. Incredibly, the judge gave him no opportunity to present his case. Despite the fact the lawyer presented physical evidence that Souleymane was innocent, the judge had his mind made up beforehand and had no intention of changing the ruling. Because of that, the motion to change/drop the charges was denied. We are in the process of appealing the judge’s decision.
Meanwhile, Souleymane has been sitting in detention, unable to work since November 29, 2017. While we wait for the appeal decision to come through (which could take months), we are filing for a cancellation of removal - which will allow Souleymane to stay in the United States. Mind you, he is here LEGALLY, and has been since he was 17 years old. He has worked consistently, paid his taxes, and been a good citizen. His employer has been holding his job, and those who were part of the prank in 2015 can’t believe that it has gone this far. It is hard to express the outrage I feel at how wrong this situation is.
The cancellation of removal process is going to cost another $6,000. If you could find it in your heart to help us out, we would be so thankful. All money raised through this gofundme account will be used to pay the fee.
- Che Laing
- Mohamed Fofana
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