Keith Byrne and his wife Keren
By Irish Echo Staff
The Philadelphia legal team representing Cork man Keith Byrne in his battle against deportation are looking to the long ago case of Beatle John Lennon for a way around two minor cannabis charges that Byrne once faced in Ireland.
It is those offenses that are seemingly the greatest obstacles to Byrne remaining in the United States with his American citizen wife and three children.
Attorney Joe Hohenstein, speaking to a number of Irish media outlets including the Irish Examiner and Irish Times, pointed to John Lennon’s own battle for a legal life in America despite his record of marijuana possession.
"The most important thing for me, Keith wanted to make sure he was telling the truth. What we have right now is a legal disagreement about whether or not he is allowed to become a lawful permanent resident,” said Hohenstein
"What we discovered as we were doing the case was that there is an extremely famous person, John Lennon, who had exactly the same charges and was found not to be inadmissible.
"The British version of marijuana possession is identical to the Irish version and that's something that even under current U.S. immigration law is not something that should make somebody what we call inadmissible.
"That's one of the main things that we're going to try and bring home when we file these papers in court.”
Lennon was targeted by the Nixon Justice Department for removal from the U.S. in 1972. The basis for the action was a charge of cannabis possession against Lennon leveled in London in 1968.
After a three-year fight against deportation proceedings, a three-judge federal panel ruled Lennon’s conviction in Britain didn’t meet American standards of justice. A year later, he won permission to remain in the U.S. on a permanent resident, reported the Irish Times.
Keith Byrne’s cannabis case goes back 14 years to his hometown of Fermoy in County Cork.
“I’m embarrassed for the government of Ireland and the government of the United States for something like that to ruin my life, my wife’s life, my children’s lives.
“People are out there doing serious crimes and they can go wherever they please. It is horrendous . . . Why should that ruin my future?” Mr. Byrne, 37, told the Times.
Byrne’s lawyers are preparing a case for their client in federal court that will focus not just on the Irish possession aspect, but also on the manner in which Byrne’s application for legal residence was handled. The attorneys argue that it was wrongly adjudicated.