Carl Irace, an East Hampton-based attorney, argued a case last month before the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit which could directly impact how cases are handled where the defendants face deportation if convicted of a crime.
The case involves an Ecuadorean-born man, Luis Carrasco, who had pleaded guilty to tax evasion in Central Islip’s federal court in 2017. Carrasco’s then-attorney, John Wallenstein, had failed to inform him that taking the plea would result in certain deportation. Instead, Wallenstein had advised his client that he thought the deportation matter could be worked out.
It was Wallenstein’s understanding that, if Carrasco took the plea, he still would be able to fight to stay in the U.S. in immigration court. Carrasco has scant ties to Ecuador at this point, since he has been in the United States for 30 years.
It was only after Carrasco took the plea that he and his attorney learned that the crime involved is classified as an aggravated felony by the federal government, and thus requires deportation upon conviction.
Irace, who was co-counsel on Carrasco’s appeal with Lawrence Carra, argued that the advice Carrasco had been given was equivocal. If Carrasco had known that deportation was a certainty upon conviction, he would have fought the case in court, instead of taking the plea deal Wallenstein had arranged, Irace said.
“This guy was told to take the plea and live to fight another day,” Irace explained last week.
Irace had argued before the Second Circuit that Carrasco had been given ineffective counsel, which is “inconsistent with the protections of the Sixth Amendment.”
The audio of the appeal is available online on the Federal Court’s website. In it, Irace tells the court about what Carrasco was told before he entered his guilty plea. “This advice is being given every day in every courthouse everywhere,” he said, “and I think that the practitioners and the trial court judges could really benefit from advice from this court, the Second Circuit.”
Irace talked about going before the Second Circuit. “It was an awesome experience. It was about as exciting as anything could be for an attorney, to have a court of that level tell you what the issues are,” he said, and then to have an extended exchange with the court on “justice and the protections of the Sixth Amendment.”