Garcia-Martinez v. Barr, No. 18-1797 (7th Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
In 1998, Garcia-Martinez pleaded guilty to assault with a deadly weapon under N.J.S. 2C:12-1(b)(2). According to his plea colloquy, Garcia-Martinez’s role was minor: he stuck out his foot to trip the victim. Once the victim was on the ground, Garcia-Martinez’s friends “jumped on [the victim] and started hitting him” and “some of [Garcia-Martinez’s] friends punched [the victim], kicked him and struck him.” Garcia-Martinez stood by during their assault; he soon left the scene. The Board of Immigration Appeals has found in the past that “assault with a deadly weapon” is a generic crime of moral turpitude that makes a noncitizen ineligible for cancellation of removal, 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(2)(A)(i)(I). The Board found that there was no realistic probability that the New Jersey law could be applied to conduct outside the scope of the generic crime and concluded that Garcia-Martinez’s conviction was for a crime involving moral turpitude. The Seventh Circuit granted a petition for review and remanded. Although the New Jersey statute appears to fit the generic definition of assault with a deadly weapon, only some of the conduct covered by the statute appears to be sufficiently vile, base, immoral, or depraved to deserve the label moral turpitude. The Board speculated about the type of weapon that Garcia-Martinez’s accomplices may have possessed and did not explain why the generic definition of assault with a deadly weapon includes tripping.