A Connecticut man has sued immigration officers in Cary and Durham, accusing them of illegally imprisoning him for 744 days in a Pamlico County federal prison even though he was a U.S. citizen.
Wayne Douglas Gray, a resident of Fairfield, Conn., who worked in North Carolina before his detention, filed an 18-page complaint in a Connecticut federal court earlier this month, accusing three immigration officers and the U.S. government of malicious prosecution.
The allegations are linked to Sept. 12, 2012, when Gray was detained on allegations that he re-entered the United States illegally after a 1998 deportation, which his attorney contends was illegal, too.
Gray, who came to the United States in 1982 when he was 8 years old, is a Bahamian native of Jamaican descent. He has been in this country lawfully for more than three decades and became a U.S. citizen on Jan. 19, 1990, when his father, Dudley Gray, became naturalized.
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Two years later, Wayne Gray was convicted of robbery in Connecticut, and after serving almost five years in prison, he was deported to Jamaica in November 1998.
Gregory Osakwe, an attorney in Hartford, Conn., representing Gray, said Monday that his client might not have realized at that time he was a U.S. citizen. But eventually, after making his way back into this country through Mexico, Gray landed in North Carolina and assumed a different identity so he could work in this state, his attorney said.
Osakwe said Gray used a phony Social Security number. In 2006, he was charged with identity theft.
In 2012, he was arrested in Fayetteville on an outstanding warrant.
At the time, according to the lawsuit, Gray was turned over to immigration authorities – Thomas O’Connell and Bryan Moultis, who worked out of a Cary U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office. Though the officers found out that Gray had been deported more than a decade earlier, one discovered while looking into his immigration records that his parents were U.S. citizens, his attorneys stated in the complaint filed in federal court on July 1.
The lawsuit also lists as a defendant Jay Weselmann, acting field office director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Durham and, according to the lawsuit, the overseer of policies and their implementation in this region. He also was responsible for training and supervising staff, attorneys for Gray stated.
Efforts to reach Weselmann were unsuccessful.
A spokesman said Tuesday that it is their practice not to comment on pending litigation.
Gray was locked up in Pamlico County until Sept. 4, 2014, when U.S. District Judge Louise Flanagan found him “innocent of the charge” and dismissed the case.
The day before, Weselmann sent Gray a two-paragraph letter.
“Our records indicate you derived United States citizenship from your United States citizen father on January 19, 1990,” the letter stated. “Although it has been determined that you effectively became a U.S. citizen on January 19, 1990 the processing of your case will not be entirely complete until you appear and take the oath of allegiance. Please advise this office when you will be available to attend an oath ceremony and you will be scheduled for the next available ceremony.”
That letter, Gray contends, underscores his arguments that agents knew or should have known that he was a U.S. citizen when he was detained in 2012 and imprisoned for two years and two weeks.
Gray is seeking damages on seven counts, including allegations that his due-process rights were violated.
He also awaits an apology, the lawsuit states.