Court rejects appeal of Walworth County youth in DACA case

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Kevin Murphy
Special to The Gazette
Wednesday, September 13, 2017

MADISON -- A former Lake Geneva youth cannot withdraw his guilty plea to armed robbery just because he did not understand he could be deported under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, a state appeals court ruled Wednesday.

Marcos Rosas Villegas, 22, is an illegal immigrant brought by a relative to the United States from Mexico at age 5 to rejoin his parents, according to the District 2 Court of Appeals opinion.

Although his attorney could have researched the detailed immigration consequences of his guilty plea, including Villegas' possible eligibility for DACA, the attorney was under no constitutional obligation to do so, the court found.

In 2012, when he was 16, Villegas and two knife-wielding cohorts broke into an apartment, where they had previously purchased marijuana. They tied up a mother and a teenager and locked two young children in another room. The robbers demanded money and marijuana and left with cash and a video game system, according to the appeals court decision.

Villegas was arrested and charged in juvenile court with party to armed robbery and was waived into adult court.

Villegas pleaded guilty to armed robbery. During a hearing, he was told he faced up to 40 years in prison and if not a U.S. citizen could be deported and denied the chance of becoming a naturalized citizen.

Walworth County Circuit Judge David Reddy also asked Villegas at the hearing if he understood that Immigration and Customs Enforcement could look into his case, and, using English, Villegas said he did, according to the appeals court decision.

Villegas was sentenced in March 2014 to 10 years in prison.

On appeal, Villegas, using an interpreter, said his attorney “didn't explain anything” and merely “read what was on the paper” and in particular failed to explain the immigration consequences.

Villegas admitted he understood deportation was a possibility but was never told it was “virtually ... certain.” He also accused the court of failing to explain the immigration consequences, complained the “words ... used were hard to understand” and said he had been too afraid to ask questions.

The claims failed to convince the District 2 Court. It found that Villegas' attorney correctly cautioned him that pleading guilty could result in deportation and becoming ineligible for re-admission into the U.S. under DACA.

The court upheld Reddy's ruling against returning Villegas' case to juvenile court. It found that Villegas did not assert that his attorney's alleged ineffectiveness during the waiver hearing had anything to do with his later decision to plead guilty as an adult.

Calls to Villegas' appeals attorney, Urszula Tempska and Walworth County District Attorney Zeke Wiedenfeld were not returned before deadline.

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