HARTFORD — A state prosecutor on Wednesday dropped a felony charge that had extended the prison time of a British citizen who was on a hunger strike to protest his sexual assault conviction and who was deported to England this week.
The state ended its prosecution of William Coleman on a charge of failing to register as a sex offender, said Supervisory Assistant State’s Attorney Christopher Parakilas. Coleman had been detained on $50,000 bail on the charge since December 2012, when he finished an eight-year prison sentence for sexually assaulting his wife but refused to register, officials said.
Coleman, 53, of Liverpool, England, hadn’t eaten solid food since September 2007, said his immigration lawyer, Erin O’Neil-Baker. Prison officials had force-fed him through a nose tube under court orders since 2008, she said.
Federal immigration authorities took custody of Coleman late Monday and put him on a plane to England late Tuesday under a 2011 federal judge’s deportation order issued because of the felony sexual assault conviction, O’Neil-Baker said. Coleman arrived in England early Wednesday and was expected to be freed, she said.
Coleman, however, may have to register as a sex offender in England, O’Neil-Baker said, and it wasn’t immediately clear if he would agree to that, because he continues to maintain his innocence.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released a statement Wednesday saying Coleman was sent to England after he lost a lengthy appeals process involving the deportation order. Immigration officials did not release information on the timing of the deportation or respond to questions raised by O’Neil-Baker.
“The arrest and removal of aliens who pose a threat to public safety remains one of ICE’s top priorities,” the statement said. “ICE works closely with prosecutors at all levels, including in this case, to ensure that immigration enforcement actions do not interfere with the adjudication of criminal charges.”
O’Neil-Baker said she and other lawyers for Coleman are upset and stunned that immigration officials didn’t notify them of the deportation. She filed a motion for a stay of the deportation Tuesday afternoon, but by then it was too late, she said. She said the way the deportation was carried out was unusual, appeared to violate protocol and may have violated Coleman’s rights.
Although Coleman lost appeals of his conviction and deportation order, he still wanted to stay to try to clear his name, O’Neil-Baker said.
“He was willing to die for that principal,” she said, adding that Coleman’s two children live in Connecticut with his ex-wife. “He had that ripped away from him in the middle of the night.”