Jamaican Ex-Marine Qualifies for Deportation

     (CN) — A former U.S. Marine from Jamaica who was convicted by special court-martial of having sex with a girl younger than 16 is eligible for deportation, the Third Circuit ruled.
     Gurson Gourzong, a native of Jamaica, was admitted to the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident in 1983, and thereafter joined the U.S. Marine Corps.
     A decade later, he was convicted by special court-martial at Camp Pendelton for willfully disobeying a lawful order, and committing a sex act with a girl under the age of 16.
     He was sentenced to six months confinement, loss of pay, and a bad-conduct discharge. A bad-conduct discharge is one level above a dishonorable discharge, which is a punishment reserved for the most reprehensible conduct.
     In 2014, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security began deportation proceedings against Gourzong, claiming that he is removable for having committed the aggravated felony of sexual abuse of a minor — even if he was never criminally convicted of the crime in a civilian court.
     A general court-martial is widely considered to have the weight of an equivalent conviction in the civilian system, but a special court-martial has more limited jurisdiction, a smaller judging panel, and cannot impose confinement of more than one year.
     An immigration judge found that Gourzong’s special court-martial qualifies as a conviction of a crime of moral turpitude, and makes him eligible for deportation.
     A divided Third Circuit affirmed Tuesday.
     “The [Board of Immigration Appeals, or BIA] correctly identified several characteristics of special court-martial that compel finding that they, like general court-martial, are typically ‘genuine criminal proceedings,” Judge Marjorie Rendell said, writing for the panel’s 2-1 majority.
     “We agree with the BIA that convictions by special court-martial are, as a general matter, convictions for purposes of the [Immigration and Nationality Act, or INA]” she concluded.
     Rendell was joined in the majority by Judge D. Michael Fisher.
     Judge Robert Cowen, however, vigorously dissented.
     “Gourzong was not ‘convicted of an aggravated felony within the meaning of the definition of ‘conviction’ of the INA'” he said, quoting the majority opinion.
     Cowen argued that Gourzong’s court-martial was not entered by a “court,” because the judging body consisted of military personnel who did not possess any legal or judicial training.
     “Simply put, I do not believe that the government has established that any military judge was detailed to preside over a special court-martial that occurred more than 20 years ago,” Cowen wrote.

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