Plea change may halt Schenectady man’s deportation
SCHENECTADY A city man who faced deportation to Guyana after admitting to felony attempted assault in 2008 may now get to stay in the United States after a plea change Wednesday.
Sewdat Rajpaul, 44, told an appeals court last year he had not been told of the immigration consequences of his 2008 plea prior to entering it.
Rajpaul entered the U.S. legally in 2007. In December 2007, he was charged with second-degree assault, accused of attacking his brother early one morning in Schenectady with a broken beer bottle, authorities said at the time.
He ultimately pleaded guilty to second-degree attempted assault, a felony, and was sentenced to probation.
But the real — and to Rajpaul unforeseen — penalty came as federal immigration officials moved to have him deported based on the felony conviction. He has been free from immigration custody on bond while the issue has been sorted out.
He made two attempts to take back his plea, finally taking his case to the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court. The Appellate Division in November cited a U.S. Supreme Court case and sent the Rajpaul case back for a hearing on the issue.
That hearing was to be held Wednesday, with Rajpaul having to show he wasn’t told and that it would have made a difference in his decision to enter his plea.
But the hearing wasn’t needed — both sides agreed to have Rajpaul withdraw his felony plea and plead guilty to a misdemeanor count of third-degree menacing. While there were no guarantees, the sides believed that plea would satisfy immigration officials and allow Rajpaul to stay.
He is due to appear at an immigration hearing next month, his attorney, Sam Iroegbu, said.
Schenectady County Court Judge Karen Drago accepted the deal, noting Rajpaul has stayed out of trouble in the years since the original incident.
If, for some reason, immigration authorities move to deport Rajpaul based on the misdemeanor conviction, he would be able to have the hearing that was ordered by the Appellate Division, officials said.
Court officials have long since corrected the problems that led to Rajpaul’s issues. Each defendant now is told by the court as a matter of course that, if they are not a citizen of the United States, any guilty plea may result in deportation. It was an admonishment Drago again offered Wednesday, as she accepted Rajpaul’s replacement plea.