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Facing Deportation, Manchester Man Makes His Case for a Pardon

Todd Bookman/NHPR

A Manchester auto mechanic with a criminal record appeared before Gov. Chris Sununu and the Executive Council on Wednesday seeking a pardon to avoid deportation.

Alain Ata, now 34, burglarized a Salem house in December 2004. A week later, he helped two accomplices break into a second home that was owned by his ex-girlfriend’s parents. After being found guilty, Ata served a lengthy prison sentence, but the conviction also meant eventual deportation to Lebanon, the country he and his family fled from when he was 10 years old.

Dressed in a light colored suit, Ata asked the five-member Executive Council to recognize how much he’s changed since those crimes.

“I have a good heart. I’m an honest person,” he said. “I just made a mistake when I was younger because I thought I knew everything back then. And I still, I’m still looking to better myself and learn more every day.”

Law enforcement officials, including Rockingham County Attorney Patricia Conway, oppose the pardon, citing his criminal record since his release from jail in 2009. That includes violating a no contact order, and a drunk driving crash that left Ata and his now fiance with serious injuries.

“He’s not above the law,” said Conway. “He has to follow the law just like everybody else.”

The Executive Council asked Ata and Conway follow up questions during the 90-minute hearing. They will make a decision at a future meeting, though no date was given.

Ata was flanked at the hearing by a large crowd of family and supporters. Two members of the clergy were present on his behalf, as was a former employee of Ataboys Auto Service, the Manchester car repair shop Ata opened in 2011.

That employee, Richard Holmes, described his struggle with opioid addiction and Ata’s willingness to extend him support.

Ata’s sister and fiance also spoke on his behalf, describing the devastation his deportation would mean to those closest to him.

Ata himself spoke about his future prospects if returned to Lebanon.

“Worst of all, I would end up in a country I left as a ten year old. A country that I never really knew, a country where I have no friends, no family, and a very grim future.”

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.

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