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Immigration Attorney David Bennion, Jesenia Calderón, Denis Calderón via Facetime and Adrianna Torres
Denis Calderón's family marched to DA Krasner's office to ask that he follow through with his commitment. Photo by Carlos Nogueras / AL DÍA News

Pennsylvania Board of Pardons reschedules hearing for Denis Calderón’s case

The board did not provide the reasoning behind the shifted schedule, nor is there clarity surrounding the new date.

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Denis Calderón’s family and legal team are on-hold again as the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons last week unexpectedly shifted the date of Mr. Calderón’s hearing, originally scheduled for Friday, Dec. 16. 

In a statement to AL DÍA, the Calderón family said they were “heartbroken to get the news that his public hearing would be postponed yet again, with no clear explanation,” and are calling on PA officials to “ensure a fair and efficient clemency process for families facing separation by borders or prison walls.”

According to persons close to Calderón’s case, the new date is unspecified at this time. 

A pardon would relieve Calderón of his charges and allow him the chance to return to his family, currently residing in West Chester, Philadelphia, after spending over 10 years in Perú, a country he’d left at the age of three. 

It would also mark a significant step for Calderón’s family, who had exhausted every legal avenue over the course of 27 years when they understood him to be wrongfully convicted. 

Jesenia Calderón, Mr. Calderón’s daughter, retook the case in 2018 after serving in the military and becoming a nurse to seek justice for his father after witnessing his prosecution as an infant in the Philadelphia courts.

With the support of immigration groups in Pennsylvania, Jesenia managed to secure conversations and informal commitments from progressive DA Larry Krasner, whose office told the family they would send Calderón’s case to the Wrongful Conviction Unit.

District Attorney Larry Krasner’s office did not follow through, and further deliberation resulted in the form of a letter to support Calderón’s case for a pardon.

But just months before the hearing was scheduled, the DA’s office rescinded the offer and said they would not compose a letter in support without explanation. 

Immigration Attorney David Bennion — one of the family’s legal representatives — believes Krasner’s recent changing position is a political move. 

“DA Larry Krasner created the CIU as a commitment to address injustices in cases like my brother's. I'd like to see his office take prompt action in fulfilling this commitment,” María Calderón, Denis’ sister, said 

Krasner and the DA’s office have been embroiled in controversy after both of Pennsylvania’s legislative chambers unleashed impeachment proceedings, a procedure that had been dormant in the state for over 200 years.

Although a letter would go a long way in presenting a strong case for Calderón’s pardon, Bennion maintains that they believe to be in good shape regardless. 

“We call on Larry Krasner to support justice for Denis and all who were wrongfully convicted by his office in the past and continue to suffer the consequences,” the statement reads.

Calderón was first the subject of aggressive prosecution in 1997 when the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office pursued criminal charges against Calderón and his cousin, Julio Maldonado, after they were attacked by a gang of ten, court records show. 

Seth Williams, an ADA at the time, fiercely sought to convict Calderón when one of the attackers, Christian Saladino, sustained wounds from the brawl, resulting in jail time for Calderón and his cousin. 

Saladino — who’d involved himself in the gang assault unprompted and against the advice of his girlfriend at the time — later succumbed to his injuries, prompting then-ADA Williams to heighten the prosecution to a murder charge. 

A pathologist report later found that Saladino died from a rare blood disease unrelated to the violent encounter in 1996, compelling the original judge on the case to reverse his initial guilty conviction. 

But Williams sought an appeal and won, keeping the guilty conviction and leading to a removal of Calderón’s permanent residency status.

When Calderón declined to enter into an agreement with ICE, he was placed in federal prison while he fought for his innocence. 

Calderón eventually signed the papers and was deported to Perú, having no home, employment, and no grasp of the Spanish language. 

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