CNY convict fights deportation

Vito Makauskas

At the Cayuga Correctional Facility outside Moravia sits an elderly convict who has been doing time for a violent crime. What happens to Vito Makauskas after he gets out of prison may have you wondering if justice is really being served.

At the age of 74, Makauskas is nearing the end of a five year sentence for kidnapping and assault. He's lived nearly all his life in the Rochester area where he's worked, paid taxes and raised a large family. Rather than going back to his family when he's released, Immigration and Customs Enforcement intends to deport him to Lithuania.

"I know nobody in Lithuania. I do not speak the language" says Makauskas.

Makauskas was two years old when his family fled Lithuania and later Poland to escape the conflict between Russia and Nazi Germany. Eventually the family settled in Rochester. Vito Makauskas married his high school sweetheart, Anna more than 50 years ago. Together they raised four children, six grandchildren and five great grandchildren. One of his sons is serving a second tour of duty in Afghanistan.

"This is the only country I've ever known and my children, my grandchildren, and great grandchildren are all here."

Makauskas says it was his love for his family that landed him in prison. In 2004, Makauskas kidnapped his own son-in-law at gunpoint, even firing the shotgun into the air. He says he was in a 'depression' at the time and was trying to convince his son-in-law not to divorce his daughter. "I just wanted to talk to him and scare him into doing the right thing. I know I did wrong."

Makauskas says his former son-in-law got $75,000 in a lawsuit settlement against him. While he claims to be full of remorse and regret, the hardest part he says is being separated from the family he loves. "I missed a lot." he said with tears in his eyes, "All my life I've worked for my family. I gave up many things."

Makauskas says his pending deportation to a country he knows nothing about would be a death sentence. He has had heart bypass surgery and four relapses since he's been in prison. "I don't have many years left to live. I want to see my family if I can."

Anna Makauskas says she worries what will happen when her husband is forced to leave the country. "That's a death sentence for him. All I want is my husband in the U.S. He belongs here."

Vito Makauskas' family, friends and others have written letters pleading with state and federal officials to block his deportation. One letter was written by one of his granddaughters. Angela Kelley is part of the effort. "His heart's very bad. he needs to come home and he needs to die with his family." she said.

The son-in-law who was the victim of kidnapping at the hands of Makauskas could not be located.

Juanita Hester, a spokesperson for the Buffalo office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told Action News "It doesn't matter how long you've been in this country, if you've been convicted of certain crimes, you don't have a lot of options."

The family has appealed to the Governor's office asking for clemency to avoid deportation. A spokesman for Governor Paterson says the office would have no comment at this time.

Angela Kelley says anyone wishing to help her grandfather can call her at: 315-333-5320.