Gay Attorney From Pompano Suspended After Conviction for Marriage Fraud | New Times Broward-Palm Beach


Gay Attorney From Pompano Suspended After Conviction for Marriage Fraud

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.

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.