Pregnant African to be resentenced

Posted July 21, 2009, at 8:09 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — A pregnant, HIV-positive African woman convicted of having false documents will be resentenced on Aug. 5 in U.S. District Court after winning her appeal of a sentence that would have forced her to give birth behind bars.

Quinta Layin Tuleh, 28, of Cameroon has been free on bail since June 15 pending the outcome of her appeal to the U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston. Tuleh, whose due date is Aug. 29, agreed last month to live in Portland and receive treatment at the Frannie Peabody Center as part of her bail conditions. The center offers support to people diagnosed with AIDS and the virus that causes the disease.

Tuleh was released on bail a few days before she was scheduled to be transferred to Carswell Federal Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas, according to the U.S. Marshal Service in Bangor. The facility provides specialized medical and mental health services to female offenders, according to information on the U.S. Bureau of Prisons’ Web site.

U.S. District Judge John Woodcock in May sentenced Tuleh to 236 days in prison — more than twice as long as the recommended sentence of 114 days — for having false Social Security and employment authorization cards. The federal prosecutor and Tuleh’s court-appointed defense attorney both urged the judge to sentence her to time served, or 114 days.

Woodcock said that to ensure Tuleh received proper medical care through the birth of her child and to increase its chances of being born free of HIV, he was sentencing her to federal prison until two weeks past her due date.

“Everything seems to be fine,” Zachary Heiden of the Maine Civil Liberties Union said Tuesday of Tuleh’s pregnancy. “She seems to be doing very well.”

The appellate court did not offer Woodcock any guidance on what Tuleh’s sentence should be. Its order, dated June 24, simply said, “Vacated and remanded” for resentencing. The resentencing date was set Monday when the court clerk in Bangor received the appellate court’s mandate.

Heiden said Tuesday that he would file a sentencing memorandum on or before Aug. 3 asking that his client be sentenced to time served, or 144 days. Heiden said he expects that Woodcock also will sentence Tuleh to two years of supervised release, as he did in May.

Tuleh still faces deportation because of her conviction. Once she is resentenced, removal proceedings against her are expected to begin. She would not be taken into custody but would be given a date for a hearing in U.S. Immigration Court in Boston, Patrick Mullen, an agent with U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement in Portland, said at Tuleh’s bail hearing.

The African woman is in the process of applying for asylum in the U.S., according to court documents, on the basis that she has been the victim of a crime. She may have suffered abuse while working for her former employer, who has not been named, in Aroostook County, according to an affidavit filed by her immigration at-torney with the Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project in Portland.

Tuleh arrived in September 2008 in the U.S. at New York City and lived in Maryland until early January, when she went to Presque Isle to work as a nanny for a family, according to court documents. She was arrested Jan. 21 at the Presque Isle Airport after false documents were discovered in her luggage. Tuleh told investigators that she had quit her job in a dispute with the woman for whom she worked.

She became pregnant before she came to Maine, according to her previous attorney, but did not confirm the pregnancy until after her arrest. Her HIV status was not known until a few days before her sentencing in May.

jharrison@bangordailynews.net

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