Kiddus Chane Yohannes

PROVO — An Ethiopian native who seemed destined for deportation after a felony conviction will now be allowed to stay in the country.

Immigration officials in Arizona have decided not to deport Kiddus Chane Yohannes, 21, whom a jury found guilty in February of possessing his roommate's ATM card, said prosecutor Chad Grunander.

"(It) is a surprise," Grunander said. "We thought that with a felony conviction he'd be deported. I don't know if the factor that he was here on political asylum (made a difference). I suppose it certainly could have."

Yohannes came to the United States in 1997 on political asylum after his father — an Ethiopian equivalent to a U.S. appellate court justice — angered the government by writing about human rights violations in their country.

Yohannes was granted the status of lawful permanent resident in 2003 and had been attending Utah Valley State College, now Utah Valley University, when he was arrested in June 2007.

Yohannes' roommate — the same one whose card was missing — called Orem police, concerned that Yohannes was watching violent Internet videos, buying guns and making threatening comments against police officers and military officials.

He was arrested and charged with providing false information on a gun application. Those charges were dismissed by Judge Gary Stott, who said the application forms were not clear enough. Yohannes had used two different numbers, both his.

The Utah County Attorney's Office has appealed that decision.

At sentencing in March for the felony charge of possessing an ATM card, Yohannes' attorney, Richard Gale, pleaded with the court to consider Yohannes' situation, as well as his minimal criminal history, and reduce the felony to a misdemeanor.

Gale told Judge Gary Stott he was concerned that if Yohannes was deported, it could mean a "death sentence."

Gale did not immediately return messages Friday.

But Stott kept the charge a felony and ruled that Yohannes serve 30 days in jail — giving him credit for 90 days already served — and be handed over to immigration officials.

He was taken to Arizona for deportation proceedings.

In the interim, Utah officials didn't know where he was, and so he was slapped with a violation for failing to communicate with his probation officer, Grunander said.

He is still in custody in Arizona due to the hold in Utah, and he will be brought back up to address it. With it cleared, he should be released, Grunander said.

However, the gun-related case is still on appeal and a bit concerning, Grunander said.

"It takes on greater importance," Grunander said, "in regards to his continued residence here."


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