Victory in Maine re-sentencing

August 04, 2009

A U.S. District Court Judge in Maine held a sentencing hearing for an HIV positive, pregnant woman from Cameroon and released her on time served. You may recall that earlier this summer Judge Woodcock sentenced her to 238 days, stating this sentence was calculated specifically to ensure that she remained incarcerated for the duration of her pregnancy, rather than time served as recommend by Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the U.S. Attorney and the defense attorney.

Ms. Q.T. was arrested in January 2009 for having false immigration documents. After both the U.S. Attorney's Office and Ms. T. appealed the sentence to the First Circuit Court of Appeals, NAPW and the Center for HIV Law and Policy filed an amicus brief with the district court on behalf of 28 organizations and experts, urging the court to release Ms. T. on bail pending her appeal. On June 15, 2009, Judge Woodcock released her, noting that the amicus brief was "articulate and helpful". Since that time, Ms. T. has been provided medical and other care by The Frannie Peabody Center, a Portland community-based HIV resource center. Shortly after her release, the First Circuit summarily vacated her sentence, sending the case back to Judge Woodcock to re-do the sentencing.

At this morning's hearing, both the U.S. Attorney and Zach Heiden requested that Q.T. be sentenced to time served (114 days), as originally requested. NAPW and the Center for HIV Law and Policy refiled the amicus brief in support of a sentence of time served. We are pleased to report that 21 additional groups and individuals signed on, bringing the total number of amici to 49. This amazing coalition represents a wide range of issues from HIV advocacy groups, to medical experts, to immigrant rights groups.

At this morning's hearing, Ms. T. briefly addressed the court and she thanked everyone who had worked on her behalf and who had been providing her support. Her attorney, Zach Heiden of the Maine Civil Liberties Union relayed that the legal advocacy "made a huge difference in this woman’s life." In addition to time served, Judge Woodcock sentenced Ms. T. to two years of probation.

NAPW would like to thank the Center for HIV Law and Policy and local counsels Elizabeth Frankel and Valerie Wright.

Local news coverage of this case in now available: