Thursday, February 9, 2012

FOIA Responses Reveal More Misdeeds by Atlanta's William Cassidy, DHS Employee-of-the-Decade

Excerpt from April 19, 2010 transcript of Atlanta security guard telling Megacenter operator in Michigan that immigration court adjudicator William Cassidy told the guards to remove me from the immigration court waiting area minutes earlier. This was illegal and the EOIR and DHS conspired to cover this up, as additional documents also obtained through FOIA requests demonstrate below.

The fact pattern in my own case is one being endured now by Edward Bloodworth and his wife. This post describes Cassidy's current law-breaking and then shows how it is of a piece with his past misconduct


Yesterday afternoon I had an upsetting conversation with Edward Bloodworth, a landscaper in Macon, Georgia whose wife has Stage 3 breast cancer and is locked up because of William Cassidy, the guy who in 2008 deported a U.S. citizen and regularly removes observers and even spouses from his court, in violation of a regulation requiring otherwise.

The short version of Edward's narrative is that on April 27, 2011 Cassidy told Edward that his wife of ten years, who was in the Gwinett County Detention Center with an "immigration hold" was not in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody and that is why she was not in court at the time indicated on her Notice to Appear (NTA).

Cassidy then said he was closing the case, meaning he was not going to authorize ICE to pursue its deportation order per the NTA ICE issued Edward's wife in the fall of 2010 after she was arrested for shoplifting. Cassidy also said that if she were in ICE custody, then they would be releasing her on bond.

Instead of releasing Edward's wife, however, ICE moved her to the Irwin County Detention Center three hours south of Atlanta and a week later issued a new NTA containing the same grounds as the initial one -- a visa overstay--even though she and her husband married in 2000 and, according to Edward, had the bona fides of his I-130 marriage petition approved in 2005, though receipt of the actual green card still is pending. In other words, she should not be detained.

No record of her appeared on the ICE locator system last year when Edward desperately searched for her after she had vanished from Gwinnett--it took a week before she could call him--and none exists today.

Meanwhile, Edward's wife cannot even obtain a bond hearing, and Cassidy is ignoring her requests to hear her case, and instead keeps adjourning the hearings. On nine occasions since April, 2011, Edward's wife was taken from her cell in southern Georgia at midnight for a long drive shackled, and at 4 a.m. stuck in a cage in the basement of the Atlanta court where she was held until after Cassidy would return from his lunch at 1 pm, at which point Cassidy would utter various inane non-legal reasons for deferring her case, including that her husband was not allowed in the building and that she needed to have an attorney. (According to Edward, "My wife replied, 'I brought three lawyers to this court already and you scared them all off.'")

Then his wife, shackled at her hands and feet, would be taken back down to the basement and held for several hours before the return trip to Ocilla, each trip a 24 hour ordeal.

Edward's complaints to the ICE Field Office about his wife's health -- he called at least once daily until she was given her medication -- perhaps pissed off the ICE thugs. For whatever reason, Cassidy, himself a former INS prosecutor, is scaring off Edward's attorneys with different versions of a false and defamatory statement that Edward assaulted an ICE agent and also issued a death threat against an ICE agent, and thus is not allowed in the building.

When Edward first heard this, he was incredulous. "If i did do it, I would have been jail," he said, explaining that in May, 2011 the guards simply told him to leave and gave him no reason whatsoever.

A former federal law enforcement investigator who now practices immigration law voiced a sentiment others have as well: immigration attorneys tend to be wimps. Many of the folks who have daily transactions with Cassidy prefer easy dealings with him over justice and the rule of law. Instead of telling Cassidy that Edward's physical presence in the court was irrelevant to his wife's prolonged detention and petition for relief, the attorneys withdrew from the case.

Edward told me, "This is not a real court. You are at the mercy of the whole government when you go there. He does not run the court. ICE runs the court."

Edward called me because he'd read my blog, wanted his story told, and knew I would understand what he was telling me.

So, for folks who have any memory of my own experience of Cassidy ordering me removed from the same Atlanta building from which Edward was removed, this seems a bit paradoxical. On the one hand ICE is determining the agenda for the EOIR removal hearings described above. But on the other hand, Cassidy was indeed ordering the private Paragon security guards contracted to run the building security for the Federal Protective Services to kick me out, even though he has zero legal authority for this. And then his cronies in Falls Church covered it all up, also in violation of the regulations for investigating misconduct. What is going on?

Over the past 20 months since this happened, I have been receiving dribs and drabs of responses to my FOIA requests for the documents associated with that event, including contemporaneous recordings, reports, e-mail, and court dockets. The hypothesis I put together last week based on these is that Cassidy wanted me out because he didn't want me to see someone who was scheduled that day and that the EOIR wanted to cover this up because that's what they do.

That is, in reviewing April 19, 2010 docket, I noticed a hearing scheduled for someone who was seeking asylum and was having hearings deferred for bizarre and incoherent reasons. It occurred to me that maybe Cassidy didn't want me to see watch their interaction, and that's why he approached me around 3 pm, out of line of the camera that would feed his statements to Stewart, and told me I had to leave.

So when Edward told me about his wife's current plight, a scenario that fits exactly what I suspected from the docket and other communications of April 19, he provided information consistent with my belief that the reason Cassidy did not want me there was that he wanted to make sure no one knew about how he was fixing things for his pals at ICE. Meanwhile, the communications show that his buddies in EOIR headquarters were covering up for Cassidy.

Here's what I knew first-hand (this is from a contemporaneous post on April 20, 2010)--for the entire post, please go here:

The immediate trigger for Mr. Cassidy's ordering private guards to have me removed appears to be an exchange we had shortly after 3 pm. I was the sole observer as he left the bench and, out of the camera's line of vision, walked toward me and asked me to leave. I asked him why. He said he had the authority to close hearings. I said that immigration hearings were generally open to the public subject to certain exceptions. I asked him if the respondent had requested a closed hearing. He said "No, the respondent is pro se," meaning without an attorney.

Mr. Cassidy also said he could order me removed. I asked if he would give me a reason for why he was closing the hearing. He thought for a few seconds and then said, "No," and told me he was getting the regulation on closing hearings and that I should wait. I told him I was familiar with the regulation. He nonetheless left the court through the rear exit.

Concerned about his implied threat earlier and also not interested in continuing this exchange I told the interpreter and administrator that I was going to the front office and that if the respondent happened to have understood what was happening and wanted me back, I would be there. The entire episode occurred in about 90 seconds.
Next I had a conversation with a court administrator in the front office about what happened and expressed my concerns about Cassidy's disregard for the regulation on public access to immigration courts; then I sat down and wrote up my notes about what was going on; and then a few guards approached and rattled their handcuffs and pushed me out.

And then a couple of months later there was the fake investigation by Gary Smith in the EOIR headquarters.

Here's what the government documents produced in response to my FOIA requests show:

1) A copy of Cassidy's hearings scheduled that day show one for someone pro se who was claiming asylum, did not have a criminal record, and had been in detention since June 6, 2009, and still was in detention after November 12, 2010 and perhaps is still there, with 20 adjournments for reasons including Quarantine, Unplanned IJ Absence, Data Entry Error, and Televideo Failure. He was being held at Stewart. He might not be so happy about this arrangement and Cassidy might not want me to hear about it.

2) At 3:13 pm Susan Eastwood at the EOIR headquarters in Falls Church sent an email message to Lauren Alder Reid and copied it to Elaine Komis, Kathryn Mattingly, and Crystal Riley with the subject heading "Jackie Stevens at the Atlanta Immigration Court." (Most of these people are in Public Affairs.)
Judge Cassidy just called to advise that he had to ask Jackie to leave the courtroom while he conferred with counsel. She apparently put up a fuss, asking if either counsel for ICE or counsel for the respondent wanted her there (neither responded), and eventually left.
When I was in Cassidy's court I asked him if the respondent had asked to close the hearing and he told me the respondent was "pro se," meaning without an attorney, and he said this was not an asylum hearing. (After Cassidy left the court I told the clerk I would be in the front office in case the respondent wanted me to observe the hearing.)

The EOIR's email shows that Cassidy was asking me to leave so that he could speak privately with the government attorney, a clear violation of the regulation prohibiting ex parte communications, a violation the Board of Immigration Appeals noted Cassidy has committed previously. Perhaps this is why Cassidy never gave me this explanation, but just told me I had to go.

On April 19, 2010 Lauren Alder Reid answered my telephone call shortly before 5 pm and did not reveal that she had received the email quoted above. She told me that immigration judges, because they are part of the DOJ, have no authority over DHS employees. It is this division of authority that the DOJ uses to skirt the fact that by holding hearings in detention centers they violate the regulation requiring them to be public.

On April 23, 2010 Reid sent me an email stating, "I have been unable to verify your account." Also in that time frame she exchanged emails with her colleagues exploring the "possible banning" of me "from immigration courts."

4) According to a transcript from the DHS Megacenter in Battle Creek, Michigan from April 19, 2010, a guard called at 3:25 pm to report an "incident." The transcript of the phone call says, "the judge and one of the ladies that's over at the court hearing advised us to escort her out of the building." Later the operator says, "Who asked you to escort her off? The judge?" The guard says, "The judge, yes m'am."

The guard also states he doesn't know much "'cause we wasn't told everything that happened, that transpired in there until afterwards. We were only told to just escort her off the property. So, when we came back in, they gave us everything then, of what went on."

This transcript is the smoking gun, so to speak, that proves not only that Cassidy did in fact order me removed, but also that everyone knew this and that instead of investigating my misconduct complaint, Gary Smith patched together a cover-up.

5) 4/20/2010 from Marion Crosby, Supervisory Legal Assistant in Atlanta for the EOIR to her boss, Cynthia Long, the court administrator and copied to someone whose name is redacted. The email describes our exchange after I left Cassidy's court and went to the EOIR waiting room to find out why I'd been thrown out:
As [Name Redacted] and I were headed toward the reception window, Judge Cassidy had come out of court to inform us that the case is an Asylum case. I go to the reception window and inform Ms. Stevens that the case is an an asylum case and that is why the judge had asked her to step out.
Note that this reference to an asylum case as the reason for my exclusion is inconsistent with what Cassidy told the EOIR and what he told me.

Crucially, the email also states,
Based on her persistence I went to security and informed them that the Judge did not want her to be in courtroom 5. Officer [Redacted] was proceeding to the Immigration Court waiting room, and I informed him that I was not requesting for her to leave the building, but she is currently not allowed in courtroom #5" (emphasis added).
Crosby appears to be the court staff referenced by the guard, and, consistent with his own report to Battle Creek, only Cassidy, not Crosby, requested my removal from the building.

At that point, as I explained in my post of April 20, 2010, the goons did not find my gait to their satisfaction and pushed me out. Not surprisingly, despite the numerous cameras in the building and the filing of an incident report, Federal Protective Services did not save the video.

I'll be posting on this separately, but here's an overview.

From the moment I first tried to gain access to immigration courts in detention centers and was rebuffed, the EOIR position has been that DOJ controls DOJ buildings and DHS controls everything else. This was the rationale for the DOJ allowing for closed hearings: the immigration courts are open, and too bad for the media if they can't make it past the DHS guards.

Since the DOJ employees are not authorized to order around DHS employees, then this means that Cassidy had no legal authority to have me removed from the federal building in Atlanta. And that means that when he told guards to remove me he was conspiring with them to commit assault and battery. In other words, Cassidy's legal authority to have the Paragon guards kick me out is the same as if I hired them to kick him out.

It would be one thing if DHS employees or contractors could claim they saw me do something illegal and use that as the basis for removing me. But this didn't happen, as the transcript proves. Therefore, the EOIR and DHS had to conspire to cover-up what did happen or they all would be in trouble.

Why Post This Now?
Edward's wife is in trouble now because of Cassidy's delays in ruling on her case and ICE's mistreatment of her, including not releasing to her the results of a CAT scan. But it is impossible to prove Cassidy's and ICE's concoctions for her case in real-time. The FOIA responses I have from my encounters in 2010 prove a conspiracy to break the law and cover this up that reaches to the top levels of the EOIR, demonstrating that the agency is rife with cronyism and designed to exploit the hardships of U.S. citizens and their loved ones, and also obsessed with hiding all this from the media.

I'll be documenting this and much more in the next few weeks. If you want an email notice of new content, please click here.

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