Federal informant in Honolulu fighting deportation to Jamaica
By Rob Perez
Advertiser Staff Writer
A Jamaican tennis pro facing deportation will get his day in a Honolulu court to argue that his help in nabbing a murderer should allow him to remain in this country.
But even as Dennis Rozetta prepares for an April 12 immigration court hearing, the door to another court — this one for playing tennis — apparently has been slammed shut.
Rozetta says he has been told that Punahou's head tennis pro no longer wants him to play on the private campus's courts because of a recent Advertiser article that detailed Rozetta's immigration troubles and his role as a confidential informant who helped a federal fugitive task force capture a murderer.
"Since that article, all of a sudden, I'm a bad guy — even though I did nothing wrong," Rozetta said.
A Punahou spokeswoman declined comment on Rozetta's situation at the school.
Rozetta hopes to resolve his immigration troubles when his attorney argues before an immigration judge next month that Rozetta's role with the task force and the danger he faces if deported to Jamaica entitles him to asylum.
Rozetta, who has no criminal record, faces deportation because he overstayed a visa several years ago — an administrative, not criminal, offense. Immigration authorities recently attempted to enforce the deportation order.
His immigration troubles began in 2003 when an immigration judge in Hawai'i ordered him to return to Jamaica. Rozetta agreed to voluntarily depart but was allowed to stop in New York to play in a tennis tournament.
While there, he was approached by the federal task force, which was seeking his help to locate two Jamaican men suspected in the execution-style killing two years earlier of another man on a New York street.
Rozetta said in his immigration court papers that he agreed to assist the task force after the U.S. Marshals Service, which led the group, promised to help resolve his immigration problem.
Rozetta helped authorities throughout 2004 and his information was instrumental in the arrest of one of the suspects, according to a supervisor for the task force. The suspect eventually was convicted in New York of second-degree murder and sentenced to 17 years to life in prison.
The second suspect remains at large. Rozetta said that man, who has ties to Jamaican gangs, has returned to Jamaica, is looking for him and has threatened his family there because of suspicions Rozetta cooperated with authorities.
A brother and sister of a fellow Jamaican tennis player likewise suspected of helping authorities were killed at their Jamaica home in November 2006, Rozetta said in his court filing.
If Rozetta is forced to return to his native country, he said his life would be in danger. That is the basis of his asylum request.
Based on Rozetta's cooperation with the task force and information he provided about the Jamaica gang violence, immigration Judge Dayna Beamer agreed to reopen the deportation case to consider the asylum request, according to her March 17 ruling.
Rozetta said he cried when he first learned of the judge's decision.
"This ruling is big," added Gary Singh, Rozet- ta's attorney. "Now he will have his day in court."
Beamer rejected arguments from the Department of Homeland Security, which opposed reopening the case. The agency contended that Rozetta was not entitled to seek relief from the deportation order and claimed, among other things, that his long wait to file for asylum undercut his claims.
NEW COURT HEARING
The court in October 2003 — shortly after Rozetta started helping the task force — had denied his initial request to reopen the case based on his marriage to a U.S. citizen. A subsequent appeal was also denied.
In agreeing to this new request, Beamer found that circumstances have since changed and that the information regarding Rozetta's task force role and the gang violence in Jamaica had not been considered by the court before.
"The court finds that there does appear to be ample evidence to make a successful claim of fear of persecution by persons the Jamaican government is unable or unwilling to control," Beamer wrote.
Among the items contained in Rozetta's court filing was a copy of the Feb. 15 front-page Advertiser story about his case — the same article that apparently triggered his problem at Punahou.
For the past three or four years, Rozetta said, he has played on occasional weekends at Punahou School at the invitation of members of the private tennis club there.
After the newspaper story was published, an assistant pro at the school told Rozetta that Bernard Gusman, Punahou's director of tennis, "thinks it best I no longer go there," Rozetta said.
Gusman also told one of Rozetta's tennis-playing friends who is a Punahou member that the Jamaican player no longer was welcomed there, Rozetta said.
The friend, who was out of the country last week, could not be reached for comment.
While the school would not comment on Rozetta's situation, Punahou issued a statement attributed to Gusman about the use of campus facilties. He said the primary purpose of the tennis facility is to serve Punahou students and to host matches with other schools.
"Given these priorities and demands, the Punahou Tennis School policy is that the courts can be used by private coaches and professional instructors only if they are employees of the tennis school," Gusman said in the statement.
Rozetta, however, said he wasn't coaching or giving lessons at Punahou, only playing with members at their request. The tennis pros at the school, he added, knew he played there.
"I was okay all these years," Rozetta said. "Then all of a sudden I'm a bad guy."