Slick Trouble

The government's determination to deport old-school rapper Slick Rick knows no bounds

No court date has been set, but Walters' attorneys continue to raise objections to the change of venue.

"Basically, they're passing the buck," says Solomiany, one of Walters' attorneys. "We've been successful [in New York] arguing our case. They could have ruled on it. They had all the evidence they needed to make an informed decision.

"The government is obviously forum-shopping, because they know that the 11th Circuit is the most government-friendly circuit in America when it comes to immigration matters," says Kurzban, Walters' other lawyer.

photo: Matthew Salacuse

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Editor's note: This piece appeared originally in New Times Broward-Palm Beach.

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What bothers Walters isn't so much that he might lose. He long ago resigned himself to his possible fate as an exile from America. "I would try to hook up with a record label over there and pretty much do my thing over there," he says. "I would let Mandy go back and forth to take care of the apartments."

What really troubles him and his lawyers is the fact that the government has gone to such lengths to win.

"It is difficult to understand why the government would be fighting this case as hard as they could," Kurzban says. "To me, the troubling aspect of it is that he is a person who in many respects has been rehabilitated, and you have both the immigration judges and the BIA saying that, on the merits, this man is deserving of this kind of relief. A prosecutor has some duty to not only be tough but to be reasonable. In many respects, the problem with this case is that it exemplifies the lack of reasonableness of the prosecutors."

One of ICE's arguments is that immigration courts have the "inherent power to reopen and reconsider" cases whenever ICE says that any evidence is "erroneous"—even after the cases are closed. Immigration used this power when it persuaded the BIA to rerule on Walters' closed case, and if Walters loses, it will become the law of the land. "This gives Immigration free reign to introduce evidence whenever they want," Solomiany says. "There's really no closure to a case. You'd always be looking behind your back waiting for them to bring something else up."

"It will mean that the government could theoretically open a case any time it wanted to," Kurzban adds. "It is a big deal."

In other words, if Walters loses his case, it would confirm that double jeopardy is acceptable in immigration cases.

One of the most well-known concepts in criminal law, even people on the street will tell you that someone acquitted of a crime (O.J. Simpson may be the classic modern example) can't be tried again criminally for the same offense. But ICE claims the power to do just that in immigration cases.

"Immigration is a completely different animal," says Butterfield, director of the Immigration Lawyer's Association. "People have fewer rights. Not only do you pay your debt to society through the criminal justice system, which we usually consider to be the end of the matter, but you often become an exile."

"Do you see the logic now?" Walters asks. "We're talking about something that happened 16 years ago. I've spent more time fighting Immigration than my actual crime itself. I've spent more time in prison not for committing the crime but for fighting to stay in America."

The moral of the story? Walters may have written it himself, back in 1989, before he pulled a trigger that derailed his life and his career. "A Children's Story" ends with its well-known homily:

Just another case 'bout the wrong path Straight 'n' narrow or yo' soul gets cast.

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