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Illegal voting charges against Toledoan dropped

The following article, written by Jennifer Feehan, appeared January 26, 2016 in The Toledo Blade. Read the story below, or view on The Blade's website. Our advocates were successful in helping this client prove he is a legal citizen. Mr. Brooks said he is grateful to ABLE and the office of U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur for helping him.

Illegal voting charges against Toledoan dropped
Man born in Aruba proves his U.S. citizenship

Denicio Brooks has some plans: to get a passport, visit his relatives in Aruba, and vote in the March primary.Mr. Brooks, 61, a Toledoan who moved to the United States when he was 8 years old, was smiling Monday morning after Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Ruth Ann Franks dismissed felony charges of illegal voting and false registration against him.

Clint Wasserman, an assistant county prosecutor, asked the court to drop the charges after Mr. Brooks — with the help of Advocates for Basic Legal Equality — produced a certificate of citizenship that declared he had been a U.S. citizen since April 8, 1963.

"I'm happy to move on. I'm happy that I have credentials," Mr. Brooks said afterward.

Jeff Lingo, chief of the criminal division for the Lucas County Prosecutor's authorities pursued the charges against Mr. Brooks based on statements he gave them about his legal status.Still, according to a letter from ABLE, he automatically became a U.S. citizen as a child because of his specific circumstances: His mother came to the United States and was naturalized in 1961.

She sent for him in 1963, and he lawfully came to live with her in the United States before he was 18. His parents were not married, and his mother had sole custody of him.

"I was always told that I was a citizen of the U.S. when I was little," Mr. Brooks said, adding that at some point, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement stopped sending him applications to renew his green card, and he assumed he was in good legal standing.

That changed last May when a Lucas County grand jury indicted him for illegally voting in the March, 2012, and November, 2012, elections and for false registration. Mr. Brooks pleaded guilty in July to the false-registration charge, but before he was sentenced, he contacted ABLE and learned he really was a citizen. He asked to withdraw his guilty plea, and now he's glad he did.

Mr. Brooks said he is grateful to ABLE and the office of U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) for helping him.

"My next thing is to get my passport," Mr. Brooks said, adding that he hopes to go see family in Aruba, an island nation off the coast of Venezuela in the Caribbean Sea. "It's tropical all year long."