AUGUSTA — Supporters of a Waterville man deported to Haiti earlier this year made emotional pleas Thursday to a board that will recommend to Gov. Paul LePage whether to pardon his underlying 10-year-old trafficking conviction.

Such a pardon, should it be recommended by the Governor’s Board of Executive Clemency and approved by the governor, would not bring Lexius Saint Martin back to the U.S. automatically; but it would help pave the way for his attorney, Evan Fisher, to appeal to federal officials in the effort.

“I won’t say it opens the door; it cracks the door,” Fisher said in response to a question from board Chairwoman Pamela Ames about what effect a pardon would have on Lexius’ ability to return to the U.S.

Ames said the board’s recommendation to the governor will not be made public — that Fisher will be notified by mail of the governor’s decision.

She also explained that a pardon does not expunge one’s record. The conviction still stands on a criminal record, but it can be annotated that it has been pardoned by the governor of the state of Maine, she said.

Lexius Saint Martin has been in Haiti since February, when he was deported after being arrested Jan. 2 on the Waterville street where he lives by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials as he was leaving his house to go to work.

In 2007, he was arrested for trafficking in cocaine. He was convicted in 2008, served seven months in jail and vowed never to get involved in anything illegal again. However, he had violated his immigration status. An immigration judge ordered his removal.

Lexius Saint Martin with his wife, Mindy, and their two sons in an undated photo. In 2010 Lexius met Mindy through friends. She said she would not date him unless he got a job. Two days later, he landed a job cleaning for a business at a hospital in Boothbay and later started his own successful business. He had been living in the United States since 1994, arriving as a refugee, when he was arrested by ICE officials Jan. 2

He was taken to Texas, where he awaited deportation, but he was released when Haiti suffered an earthquake and could not take people back. The deportation order, however, was not rescinded.

In 2010 he fell in love with his wife, Mindy, and landed a job cleaning for a business at a hospital in Boothbay. Lexius later started his own successful business, LMD Cleaning Services.

He had come to the U.S. with his father and siblings in 1994 when he was 11. Classified as a refugee, he was in the U.S. legally and had green card status. He attended school in Florida and later came to Maine to work in the blueberry fields and stayed.

On Thursday, about 20 Saint Martin friends, relatives and former colleagues turned out for the hearing, held in the Tyson Building at the state Department of Corrections. Several spoke, including Mindy Saint Martin, 28, and even her husband, who was reached in Haiti via cellphone and placed on speaker phone.

Mindy said her husband has been a wonderful father to their children, Donovan, 5, and Marcus, 2. He has not yet met their daughter, Mya, who was born in May.

The baby, lying on the chest of Mindy Saint Martin’s mother, Jodie Reynolds, slept soundly during the hearing, which lasted an hour and 15 minutes.

Saint Martin, 35, turned his life around after he served time for the 2007 trafficking charge, checked in with immigration officials as required, got a job, got married, started his business, had three children who are U.S. citizens, and was living the American dream, according to those who spoke on his behalf.

Mindy Saint Martin met him after his conviction and said he has been a model husband and parent.

“I could not ask for a more dedicated husband and provider,” she said as part of a lengthy prepared statement.

She broke down briefly during her speech, in which she said the impact of her husband’s deportation has been devastating, not only for her but for the children: “They went from a life where they saw their father every day to one where he is gone and they can’t believe or understand why.”

‘EXTRAORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCES’

On Thursday, Governor’s Board of Executive Clemency members Fern LaRochelle and Pamela Ames listen to Lexius Saint Martin on a cellphone speaking from Haiti during a hearing in Augusta about a potential pardon for Saint Martin for a drug trafficking conviction that could help him return from Haiti and reunite with his family in Waterville.

Ames, the board chairwoman, had asked Fisher, Lexius Saint Martin and other speakers Thursday to explain what “extraordinary circumstances” had brought them to the hearing, as such circumstances are part of the criteria being examined to determine a recommendation to the governor.

Wayne Printy, chief financial officer for LincolnHealth, which operates hospitals, physician practices, long-term care facilities and health centers, said LincolnHealth employed Lexius’ business, LMD Cleaning, at its St. Andrews campus in Boothbay Harbor. St. Andrews is an outpatient-only department of LincolnHealth’s hospital in Damariscotta.

Before the hearing Thursday, Printy said Saint Martin’s reliability was “incredible,” and LincolnHealth had gone through three firms to try to replace Saint Martin, but it has been difficult.

“We can’t get anyone to do the quality of work that he did,” Printy said, adding that Saint Martin provided “super services” and has an “extraordinary work ethic.”

“He’s very well-liked and he’s very much missed by our employees,” Printy told the board.

He said one could call Saint Martin’s journey a “true American story” of someone who has completely changed his life, worked hard and is a dedicated family man.

“In my opinion, Lexius is an extraordinary person with an extraordinary story that’s looking to you to help write the end of this story,” he said.

Saint Martin’s sister, Katia Saint Martin, flew to Maine from Florida to speak on his behalf. She said their parents and six children came to the U.S. legally about 25 years ago as their father faced persecution in Haiti, where there was a lot of civil unrest. It was difficult adjusting to the new culture, language and life in the U.S., she said. The children were bullied in school because they were immigrants, and Lexius was always the protective big brother she said.

Having to take several pauses because she could not hold back tears, Katia Saint Martin said her family was devastated when Lexius, a good and decent man, was deported.

“Lexius was always remorseful about the mistake he had made in his past,” she said, urging the board to issue a favorable recommendation.

“His current separation from his children is a harsh punishment for his children,” she said.

Ames, a criminal defense attorney, is one of five members of the panel, which also includes Fern Larochelle, a prosecutor and former deputy attorney general. Francis Griffin, assistant district attorney for Kennebec and Somerset counties, Madeline Malisa, chief legal counsel for LePage, and John Doyle, assistant legal counsel to the governor, also are board members.

On Thursday, the panel heard 18 requests for pardon recommendations and Saint Martin’s was last, starting at 1:45 p.m.

Bill Goodwin, director of adult probation, said Wednesday that it would be a busy day for the board, which typically hears about six requests at a time. The board holds hearings quarterly.

‘I MADE A STUPID CHOICE’

With Saint Martin on speaker cellphone, Ames asked him to explain how he got involved in trafficking in crack cocaine in 2007.

He said he was working at Walmart and had friends who were involved in drugs and he always wanted to please people.

“At the time, I was young and I made a stupid choice,” he said.

There appeared to be some confusion as to how many times he had sold drugs. Ames said that the original indictment had three different dates on it — March 1, 9 and 16, 2007. She asked if he had sold three different times. Saint Martin said there should only have been one date, to which Ames asked if he only sold one time.

“Yes, one time,” he said.

But later in the hearing, Griffin said that in 2007, the allegations were that he sold at least twice.

“Is that accurate?”

“Yes,” Saint Martin replied.

Meanwhile, Ames asked Lexius if he knew what steps he would have to take in the effort to try to come back to the U.S.

“As of right now, no, I don’t, but I would do whatever possible,” he said.

Lexius Saint Martin has been separated from his wife, Mindy, and his family since his arrest by ICE agents on Jan. 2. A businessman, he was the sole means of support for the family. His wife has since had to appeal to the state of Maine for assistance.

He said he does not have much of a life in Haiti, which is in turmoil, and where he lives in a shack with no running water or electricity. There are no jobs, he eats beans and rice and gets sick on some food and water. Some food, he said, he can barely eat because his system is not used to it.

Ames asked if, when he pleaded guilty to criminal charges, his attorney at the time explained to him that as a felon, he would be deported automatically. She also asked if, when he came to the U.S., he was told if he was ever convicted of a felony, he would be deported. He answered no to her questions.

Saint Martin said that, while he was on probation after serving his time, he always checked in with immigration officials and never missed an appointment, and they told him he was fine, so he was not fearful of being deported. Ames asked what his reaction was when he was taken by immigration officials.

“I was shocked. I was shaken. I was crying like a baby because I knew I’d never see my kids again and it was just — it was awful,” he said.

Ames asked if he had any warning prior to being detained, to which he said he did not.

“It was just, one morning I got up to go to work and my life’s over,” he said.

Fisher told the panel that Saint Martin is more an American than a Haitian, as he had lived here 25 years. He is the model of what the state wants people to be like when they leave the criminal justice system, according to Fisher.

Not having Saint Martin at home poses an extraordinary hardship for his family, which has had to ask the state for help in making ends meet and feeding the children, Fisher said. “It’s a hardship for everyone in the state because we all foot the bill.”

Karen Smith, of Benton, said she came to know Saint Martin in 2006 through her boyfriend, who worked with him at Walmart, and they became friends.

Twice Saint Martin lived with her family and baby-sat her children and was trustworthy and reliable, according to Smith. She said that because he has nothing in Haiti, she shipped him a care package of basic necessities and had some space left in the box, so she asked him what else she could send.

“He asked me to send as many toothbrushes as possible for the kids in the neighborhood,” she said, adding that he has been teaching the Haitian children about personal hygiene, trying to get clothes for them and teaching them English.

June Powell, owner of Cinderella Cleaning Service in Belgrade Lakes, said she used Saint Martin as a subcontractor because he was so good at cleaning windows and floors.

Before the hearing, Powell said he worked in small health centers and worked for “elite” clients; but this year, she has had to downsize her business because she does not have his firm to help and it is hard to find trustworthy, reliable help.

“I miss him. He’s impacted how I’ve been able to handle things this summer,” Powell said.

Mindy Saint Martin’s brother, John Reynolds, calling Lexius Saint Martin “my brother,” said they initially bonded over sports and fishing, but more importantly Saint Martin helped him get through opioid addiction and changed his life.

“He never stopped believing in me,” he said. “He is truly an inspiration for me.”

Breaking down, Reynolds said he will never stop advocating for Saint Martin.

“He’s still suffering,” he said. “My sister and her kids are still suffering.”

Boxes of tissues were circulated throughout the room as those who turned out to support the family broke down in tears at various times.

Dwight Leighton, owner of Caswell’s Liquidation Centers, said he has known the Saint Martins six or seven years and Mindy Saint Martin’s family members have worked for him. He said he hoped the panel could help Lexius Saint Martin as he is “the greatest,” and he wished he could get 10 Lexiuses to come to work for him.

“He’s just what I like my kids to be,” he said.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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