Eric Affholter, an attorney who practices in Pompano Beach, has had his law license suspension upheld by the Florida Supreme Court, based on Affholter's arranging a fraudulent marriage designed to make his partner, a Peruvian man, a legal resident.
It was a real-world consequence in the often abstract debate over whether same-sex partners should have the right to legally marry. Late Monday, I left a message for Affholter on a voice-mail box he shares with his partner, Pedro Cerna-Rojas. I hope to hear back today, and when I do, I'll post it on the blog.
The felony marriage fraud case against Affholter dates to 2007, and it was filed in a court in St. Louis, Missouri, where he had been assistant public defender. After the jump, excerpts from a local news report about Affholter's case.
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According to local news reports, Cerna-Rojas had been staying in the U.S. on a student visa, which expired in June 2004. To allow him to stay legally in the U.S., a female friend of Affholter's, who also worked in the public defender's office, volunteered to marry Cerna-Rojas in a Las Vegas chapel.
It appears that federal prosecutors took a great deal of heat from the local gay rights community for spending resources on the case. But an article in the St. Louis Daily Record, a legal publication, dated October 15, 2007, suggests Affholter himself did not take that stance. It quotes Affholter after the sentencing:
"The U.S. attorney's office is charged with enforcing the laws of this country. I believe that is their duty and their job, and what I did was illegal," he said.
While Affholter doesn't fault the prosecutors for doing their job, he criticizes the law that doesn't afford same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples.
"It's been 40 years since we celebrated Loving v. Virginia, which allowed people of African-American race and white race to marry each other," he said. "I hope that it's not another 40 years before same-sex couples are able to marry in this country."
Under the sentencing guidelines, Affholter could have received up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
Instead, Affholter received no jail time and a year's probation. But the case still dealt a crushing blow to his career as an attorney. A sister paper of New Times, the Riverfront Times, gave Affholter an award in its Best of St. Louis issue: Best Crime of Passion.