The Hempstead pizza deliveryman detained in June by U.S. immigration agents and lauded as a victim of overzealous enforcement was released from jail after his weekend arrest over a domestic altercation, his lawyer said Tuesday.
A Nassau judge also ordered Pablo Villavicencio, 35, a married father of two from Ecuador, to stay away from his wife, Sandra Chica.
Villavicencio, who the federal government said illegally entered the United States in 2008, became a symbol of the national immigration debate this summer when he was detained while delivering pizza after a background check showed his status.
On Friday, Villavicencio was arrested and charged with criminal mischief in connection with an altercation with his wife.
At his Saturday arraignment, Villavicencio pleaded not guilty and was held in Nassau county jail on a bail of $500 bond or $250 cash. He was released Monday night after posting bail, said his lawyer, Bruce Barket of Garden City.
Nassau District Court Judge Darlene Harris, who presided over the arraignment, issued a temporary order of protection against Villavicencio directing him to stay at least 100 yards from his wife and forbidding him from contacting her by email, telephone or any other means.
The court order, which remains in effect until Oct. 19, 2019, allows Villavicencio to visit the couple’s daughters, ages 3 and 4.
Barket would not say where his client is living while he fights the latest charge. The case against his client, Barket said, is weak.
“Ultimately, this case is going to go away,” Barket said Tuesday in an interview outside of First District Court in Hempstead. “I think that the attention from his immigration case is complicating that.”
On Tuesday, District Court Judge Joy Watson set Nov. 5 for trial on the criminal mischief charge.
Villavicencio pushed his wife against a wall and "slapped her body" during an argument, according to a criminal complaint. When Chica said she was going to call the police, the complaint said, Villavicencio took her cellphone from a kitchen counter. She told Hempstead police the next day he had kept her cellphone, according to the complaint. When officers arrived to investigate, the complaint said, they found her cellphone in the pocket of Villavicencio's shorts.
In a statement to police signed by Chica, she said the argument began when Villavicencio demanded the passports for the couple's two young children. He wouldn't tell her why he wanted them, Chica said in the statement, but told her she'd get them back later.
"He has been increasingly angry since I told him I wanted a divorce," Chica said.
Earlier this year, after being detained for more than 50 days, a federal judge ordered Villavicencio released from immigration detention and stayed his deportation.
Villavicencio should be freed and allowed to stay in the United States while pursuing legal residency based on his marriage to Chica, a U.S. citizen, U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty said in July.
“Although he stayed in the United States unlawfully — he has otherwise been a model citizen,” Crotty wrote. “He now has two children, both of whom are United States citizens. He has no criminal history. He has paid his taxes. And he has worked diligently to provide for his family.”