The Cornell University student charged with a hate crime last semester could be permanently deported from the United States if he is convicted, and a federal immigration agency has already shown interest in the case.
John P. A. Greenwood ’20, who is facing three charges after being accused of a race-motivated assault, is a Canadian citizen studying at Cornell on a student visa, his lawyer confirmed in court documents filed on Thursday. The lawyer, Ronald P. Fischetti, said a conviction could lead to Greenwood being deported from the U.S. and being forbidden from re-entering.
“He would thus be exiled from the United States, an extraordinarily harsh consequence, preventing him from, among other things, ever pursuing an education at a college or University in the United States,” Fischetti wrote in a motion arguing that all charges against Greenwood should be dismissed.
A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement official contacted the City of Ithaca after police arrested Greenwood in September, a city official with direct knowledge of the communication told The Sun.
ICE requested the date and location of Greenwood’s arraignment before the information was publicly available, according to the city official, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of antagonizing the immigration agency. Ithaca officials did not provide the information to the agency, abiding by the city’s sanctuary city legislation, the official said.
Officer Jamie Williamson, a spokesperson for the Ithaca Police Department, said that the department does not participate in ICE operations and that Ithaca Police “were not advised of any ICE operation regarding the Greenwood case.”
Under a section of the Immigration and Nationality Act, immigrants convicted of a “crime of moral turpitude” are deportable if they were admitted to the U.S. within five years before the crime and the charge carries a sentence of at least one year.
Prosecutors said last semester that Greenwood, who is 20 and white, punched a black student, Solomon Shewit ’19, in the face, causing Shewit’s nose to bleed and face to swell. Shewit later spoke to The Sun from the hospital, where he said a concussion screening came back negative.
Tompkins County’s district attorney, Matthew Van Houten, charged Greenwood in November with attempted assault in the third degree as a hate crime and aggravated harassment in the second degree, stemming from the altercation.
Van Houten also charged Greenwood with criminal mischief in the fourth degree, saying the student had knocked a phone out of a witness’s hand and stomped on it after she recorded him following the altercation with Shewit.
All three charges are misdemeanors and each carries a maximum penalty of up to one year in jail.
“As a citizen of Canada, studying in the United States on a student visa, a conviction for either attempted assault as a hate crime or aggravated harassment would have serious immigration consequences for Mr. Greenwood,” Fischetti wrote in the motion.
The attempted assault and aggravated harassment charges, Fischetti wrote, both count as crimes of “moral turpitude” under federal immigration law and a conviction on either count would render Greenwood deportable and inadmissible, meaning he would not be able to re-enter the U.S. in the immediate future.
Greenwood grew up in Toronto, according to the motion and a now-deleted profile on the Cornell athletics website, and he may have first received his student visa to study at Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts, from which he graduated in May 2016.
The prestigious private school has since been reckoning with the arrest of its alumnus, according to the high school newspaper, The Deerfield Scroll.
Fischetti noted the possible deportation in a 101-page omnibus motion arguing, among other things, that the charges against Greenwood should be dismissed.
If Greenwood is convicted, he is likely to be expelled from Cornell University, “not only forfeiting his right to a Cornell degree,” Fischetti wrote, “but branding him as someone that has been expelled, and greatly limiting his chances of enrolling in another quality academic institution.”
Fischetti previously confirmed that Greenwood is on leave from Cornell and that the University’s judicial case against him is on hold until the criminal case concludes. Greenwood “loves Cornell” and “plans to stay” at the University, Fischetti said in November.
“A four-year degree from Cornell was a lifelong dream for Mr. Greenwood,” Fischetti said in the motion. “A conviction here would erase that opportunity.”