Haitian Immigrant Who Robbed Bank Seeks Pardon To Avoid Deportation

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2023/09/04/haitian-immigrant-who-robbed-bank-seeks-pardon-to-avoid-deportation/

The Massachusetts Governor’s Council plans to hold a hearing Wednesday on whether to approve a pardon for a convicted bank robber – without the convicted bank robber.

Kenny Jean, who was born in Haiti, was 20 when he robbed a bank in Seekonk in November 2015, according to a newspaper story of the time. (The governor’s office says he was only 18 when he was convicted of armed robbery in 2016.)

Now in his mid-to-late 20s, Jean needs a pardon so he can avoid getting deported back to Haiti. He told the Massachusetts Parole Board in April that he wants to apply for a new Green Card or for U.S. citizenship and that he wants to find work as a chef, according to State House News Service.

The state parole board recommended a pardon for Jean on June 20, according to State House News Service.

Governor Maura Healey recommended a pardon for Jean on Thursday, August 31.

In a written statement, the governor’s office says of Jean:


Kenny Jean: Kenny was convicted of Armed Robbery in 2016 when he was 18 and sentenced to 2-3 years in prison. He says that at the time, he was homeless and in desperate need of money. As a teenager, he worked with a nonprofit called More Than Words, which provides jobs and training to system-involved youth. When he was released from custody, he continued to work with the organization. He earned his certificate of completion from South Coast Education Collaborative, completed the New England Culinary Arts Training Program and joined a church. 


The state parole board “heard effusive words of support” from the chief executive officer of More Than Words, according to State House News Service. More Than Words describes itself as “a nonprofit social enterprise that empowers system-involved youth to take charge of their lives by taking charge of a business.”

Jean has “significant cognitive limitations including a borderline IQ of ~ 70,” according to a memorandum from his lawyer quoted by State House News Service. He has also been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome, reactive attachment disorder, and attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity, according to the memorandum.

The Massachusetts Constitution authorizes the governor to issue a pardon of criminal offenses “by and with the advice of” the Governor’s Council, under “terms and conditions” set by the state legislature for felony cases. A state statute requires the Governor’s Council in such cases to hold a public hearing before voting on the governor’s recommendation for a pardon.

Mariyln Petitto Devaney (D-Watertown), a longtime member of the Governor’s Council, plans to chair the public hearing.

In such a situation, Governor’s Council members would ordinarily interview the subject of the pardon request during the public hearing.

That won’t happen this time because Jean would feel “overwhelmed” in a room “surrounded by people,” Devaney told State House News Service.

Instead, only supporters and opponents of the pardon request will be invited to speak during the hearing.

According to documents cited by State House News Service, Jean was sent to jail at age 18 on criminal charges in a case for which he was not ultimately convicted. When he was released, he was homeless.

“He explained that the robbery for which he is seeking a pardon was a desperate attempt to get money. He committed the offense with an older man he knew from the streets,” the state parole board said in a summary of its interview with Jean, according to State House News Service. (Parole board hearings in Massachusetts are closed to the public except in life sentences.)

When he was released from prison in 2018, Jean was taken into custody by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which planned to deport him. But an immigration lawyer, Susan Church, helped get him released.

Church told the state parole board in a letter that the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, which had custody of Jean for much of his childhood, was negligent for not applying for U.S. citizenship on Jean’s behalf when he was a minor, according to State House News Service. Church told the state parole board that Jean has a high risk of being deported and that only a pardon of the bank robbery conviction will allow him to remain in the United States, State House News Service reported.

Church is one of 53 lawyers honored by the Boston Bar Association this past June 15 for legal work on behalf of about 50 Venezuelan migrants flown to Martha’s Vineyard in September 2022 by the administration of Florida governor (and Republican presidential candidate) Rod DeSantis.

In May 2023, the Healey administration appointed Church the chief operating officer of the Massachusetts Office for Refugees and Immigrants, a state agency that “supports services that meet the cultural and linguistic needs of refugees and immigrants through a network of service providers in Massachusetts.”

The Governor’s Council’s public hearing is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, September 6 in the Governor’s Council’s chamber in the Massachusetts State House in Boston.

The hearing is expected to be livestreamed on the Governor’s Council’s YouTube channel.


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