Judge keeps deported man in custody 

Willy Antonio Hernandez Camilo (courtesy)

SALEM — A Salem Superior Court judge on Wednesday revoked the bail of a former Lawrence man charged with attempted murder — a move that will, at least for now, keep him from being deported.

Judge Thomas Drechsler said he was ordering that Willy Antonio Hernandez Camilo remain in custody because otherwise, he would likely never stand trial in what prosecutors say was an unprovoked and near-fatal stabbing in 2016. 

Camilo, 35, has already been ordered deported back to the Dominican Republic by an Immigration Court judge in Pennsylvania, according to court papers.  

The fact that he was even back in a Salem courtroom on Wednesday was only the result of what prosecutor Timothy Prather called a lengthy process — a federal prison official initially rejected a request to hand Camilo over after he completed a federal sentence for aggravated identity fraud and other charges last year. 

"If I release him ... and he is taken into federal custody, that will not ensure his appearance here (for trial)," said Drechsler. That is one of the standards for setting bail in a case. 

As the judge spoke, two men previously identified in unrelated past court proceedings as ICE agents were seated in the back of the courtroom. They left moments after Drechsler revoked Camilo's bail. 

The crime

The stabbing occurred on May 21, 2016, in a club in Lawrence, where the alleged victim was playing dominoes. 

Prosecutors say that Camilo — who was at the time using the stolen identity of a man named Roberto Despiau — told the victim that he did not know how to play the game. 

Then Camilo allegedly stabbed victim in the chest and arm, severing a brachial artery.  

The defendant was charged with armed assault with intent to murder, mayhem (the intentional disfigurement or permanent injury to another person); assault and battery with a dangerous weapon causing serious bodily injury and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. 

He was found to be a danger, but released on $5,000 bail with conditions that included staying away from the victim, a GPS bracelet and a curfew.

Then, he failed to appear for a hearing in the case in 2017. 

His lawyer, Scott Gleason, learned that prosecutors had charged his client, whose true name was Camilo, with stealing the identity of a Puerto Rican man (Despiau), then using it to obtain a United States passport at the Methuen post office and a driver's license. 

Camilo pleaded guilty in federal court to identity fraud and other charges and was sentenced to two years, completing his prison term last fall. 

Prather said the victim of the stabbing is still available and interested in testifying against Camilo, who has pleaded not guilty in that case.  

Feds wouldn't initially honor state warrant

According to court papers, the Essex District Attorney's office made a formal request last fall to have Camilo turned back over to Massachusetts authorities to stand trial on the stabbing case. 

But a Bureau of Prisons acting warden rejected the request. 

"Federal interests would be interfered with and harmed if released on this writ," wrote Bureau of Prisons acting warden E. Staiger last October. 

Since then, however, the District Attorney and federal officials reached an agreement to allow Camilo to be brought back to Massachusetts in custody to answer to the case here. 

Carrie Kimball, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office, said their office worked "very closely" with federal officials to reach that agreement. 

"There was a lengthy process in order to have him returned to Essex County to face justice," said Kimball. 

But since his $5,000 bail had already been posted in the Massachusetts case, he could have been handed back over to ICE had Dreschler not revoked that bail. 

Prather argued that the circumstances of the case had changed because his office learned of the defendant's true identity and his lack of legal status in the United States. 

Gleason took the opposite view. 

"In my opinion, he should be released," argued Gleason, who said his client had made every court hearing in the case before his arrest by federal officials in 2017. He also argued that his client had not committed a crime by using the name Despiau.

"It's not against the law for anyone to change or adopt a separate identity," argued Gleason. "I could become Paul Jones. It's a name he'd been using since 2010." 

And he argued that had his client been seeking to elude authorities he might have well used his real name, because until the federal charges, he had no prior record under that name. 

But Prather argued that had a judge in 2016 known that the defendant was using a false name and that he was not in the United States legally, the bail might have been much higher — or he might not have released Camilo at all. 

The judge agreed, finding that there is no way other than holding Camilo without bail to assure his appearance at trial. 

Ongoing issue

Last year, Essex County prosecutors were unable to try a Lawrence child rape case after a defendant named Victor Ramirez was deported to Guatemala before he could stand trial. Federal officials had rejected two requests by the district attorney's office to bring Ramirez to court for trial. 

The issue exploded again last month with the federal indictment of District Court Judge Shelley Joseph and a now-retired court officer who allegedly helped a man wanted by immigration officials elude two agents who had gone to Newton District Court.

Then, the district attorneys of Suffolk and Middlesex counties, the Committee for Public Counsel Services and an advocacy group, the Chelsea Collaborative, filed a federal suit seeking to bar any ICE agent from state courthouse property. 

The suit quotes a letter from Blodgett to the Supreme Judicial Court clerk last year. Blodgett's chief concern was for ensuring that federal agents do not interfere in ongoing state cases, citing the Ramirez case as one example in which a victim of multiple child rapes over an extended period was deprived of justice, Kimball said. 

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, by email at jmanganis@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @SNJulieManganis. 

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