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Eighth Circuit Rules that Witness Tampering is an Aggravated Felony

In a decision issued last month, the Eighth Circuit ruled that Nebraska’s witness tampering statute is an aggravated felony under the Act and is thus a deportable offense. In Lugunas, the alien was convicted of witness tampering under Nebraska’s witness tampering statute. He was placed in removal proceedings and charged with being deportable for committing an aggravated felony. He moved to terminate the proceedings and the immigration judge denied his motion. The BIA upheld and he petitioner for review.
An alien is deportable under the Act if he was convicted of an aggravated felony. Witness tampering is an aggravated felony because it relates to obstruction of justice. In denying the petition and upholding the BIA’s decision, the Eighth Circuit reasoned that the witness tampering statute requires both the actus reus of interfering with witnesses and the intent to interfere with justice.
The Eleventh Circuit has not ruled on whether witness tampering is an aggravated felony. There is a circuit split on the issue and the question might be ripe for review by the Supreme Court.