HOUSTON (CN) – An experienced attorney claims the Houston District director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services defamed him by falsely accusing him of “tampering with a government document,” which is a felony in Texas. Kurt Clarke says he obtained the documents for a client from the Texas attorney general and submitted them to the USCIS “just as they were received from the A.G.” He demands $3 million in punitive damages.
Clarke sued USCIS Houston District Director Sandra Heathman and the agency’s national director Alejandro Mayorkas in Federal Court.
Clarke says he has practiced in and around Houston for 20 years, with a good reputation, and that part of his practice involved immigration.
He says the trouble started when, in the course of representing a client, “the USCIS requested additional information. Plaintiffs contacted the office of Texas Attorney General hereafter A.G., and obtained certain documents which were forwarded to the USCIS just as they were received from the AG.”
But in a letter of Aug. 21, 2009, which he received on Aug. 26, Clarke says, Heathman “accused plaintiff of tampering with a government document. The offense is a felony in the State of Texas.”
Clarke says he “immediately took exception to defendant’s allegation and requested that defendant recant. Defendant failed and refused to do so.”
He says he sent the demand for a retraction the day he received Heathman’s letter.
“Defendants had no factual basis for the publication of the libelous statement,” Clarke says. “Defendants were reckless in their conduct in publishing such a false statement.”
The USCIS declined to comment on the case. Clarke’s attorney, Bassey Akpaffiong of Sugar Land, also declined to comment.
In addition to the $3 million in punitive damages, Clarke wants $850,000 in actual damages for injury to reputation and lost earnings.