Deportation ordered for Malvo's mother
Seattle Times staff reporter
The mother of sniper suspect Lee Boyd Malvo was ordered deported by an immigration court judge during a closed hearing yesterday in Seattle. She remains in the country pending a possible appeal by her attorneys, according to sources familiar with the case.
During the hearing, Una James, 38, withdrew a petition she had filed asking for special protections as a battered spouse. The claim afforded her a greater degree of privacy, including the right to a closed hearing, within the administrative system established to hear immigration cases.
A judge with the Executive Office for Immigration Review, an arm of the U.S. Department of Justice, ordered James deported to Jamaica, sources said. She lived there with her son, Lee Malvo, 17, until they moved to Antigua in 1998.
It was in Antigua that the mother and son became entangled with John Muhammad, 41, the Army veteran accused in the sniper attacks that left at least 14 dead and five wounded in the Washington, D.C., area and across the country.
Malvo and Muhammad are being held on capital murder charges in Virginia. The two also are suspects in shootings in Washington state, Louisiana, Georgia and Alabama.
James initially told agents from the Border Patrol and the Immigration and Naturalization Service that she and Malvo were smuggled in aboard a cargo ship. But reports after the shootings indicated that James bought a false ID from Muhammad that allowed her to enter the United States in late 2000. Her son, who remained in Antigua, lived with Muhammad for two months before coming to the United States under a passport that identified him as Muhammad's son, according to Antiguan officials.
Malvo joined his mother in Fort Myers, Fla., but ran away in October 2001 to join Muhammad in Bellingham, where they lived at a homeless shelter as father and son. Last December, James asked Bellingham police to help take her son from Muhammad, but during the investigation Malvo made comments that suggested he and his mother were in the country illegally.
Police called the Border Patrol, which took James and Malvo into custody. They were held briefly then released on $1,500 bail. Although Malvo was released to his mother, he quickly hooked up with Muhammad again and shortly after, police allege, began a nationwide killing spree.
James' attorneys from the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project in Seattle would not comment on the ruling, citing confidentiality rules surrounding the hearing. The proceedings were supposed to be held today but were changed on short notice.
By reserving the right to appeal the ruling, James' attorneys have bought some time for their client. How much time, however, is unclear.
One source familiar with details of the case said James may not want to be here for her son's trial, assuming there is one.
"I get a sense she wants to go home," the source said. "You can just imagine what she's going through."
It's unlikely the INS will take James into custody now or ask that her bail be increased, because she remains in contact with her attorneys, who have made her available to INS officials.
Susan Kelleher: 206-464-2508 or firstname.lastname@example.org.