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Searching for ways to help Pasquale Barone

By RAELYNN RICARTE

News staff writer

May 14, 2005

Pasquale Barone was convicted of a minor drug crime in Canada 34 years ago. Now history has come back to haunt the developer who has lived in Hood River for almost two decades.

On May 3, Barone, 58, was given shocking news while renewing his investor visa at the U.S. Embassy in Toronto, Canada. He was ordered by officials from the U.S. State Department not to re-enter the United States because he had omitted the arrest on his visa application. According to reports, the missing information came to light when Barone’s fingerprints turned up in an FBI database.

In a telephone interview from Toronto on Friday, Barone said he had been advised by legal counsel not to give out details about his case. He did, however, explain that the reason he failed to list the drug charge was simple — it was simply forgotten. After paying a $250 fine for the infraction, Pasquale believed the conviction had been dropped from his record. And, then as life got busy and the years passed, he mentally shelved the incident altogether.

“I want to thank the community, I am honored and humbled by their support. I certainly will do everything that I can to rejoin the community and see my work take shape — but it needs to be done at the right time,” he said.

Friends, family members and local officials are upset about the possibility that the foreign national might not ever be able to recross the border. They believe that he has already paid the price for a crime that was committed while he was a young adult — and shouldn’t be penalized again.

“I would be hard-pressed to think of a man who has contributed so much to this community. He does things with class and quality is his goal,” said Hood River County Commission Rodger Schock.

His disbelief over the “persona non gratis” status assigned to Barone is shared by Hood River Mayor Linda Rouches. The mayor said the developer’s renovation of the historic Hood River Hotel has not only provided local jobs but attracted many visitors to the area.

“Pasquale has made a significant contribution to economic development in Hood River. We are eager to have him back home safely,” said Rouches.

His good friend and project manager, Eric Burnette, is not under any prohibition against speaking out. He has spent the past week reassuring building officials and affected stakeholders that all of Barone’s pending residential construction jobs will stay on schedule.

“Without exception, every single person I’ve spoken with has been absolutely dumbfounded,” said Burnette. “They can’t believe that he, of all people, would be subjected to this for an infraction that occurred more than one-quarter of a century ago.”

He said Barone’s wife, Jacquie, and their two daughters, Kesia, 14, and Nina 9, have also been victimized by the government decision. Jacquie has been in Costa Rica this week on a field trip with her eldest daughter and was unable to be reached for comment.

“Just consider the situation she is in. She can either stay here with the girls in their hometown and be separated from her husband. Or, she can take the girls up to Toronto to be with her husband, but then they are separated from the home they built and their livelihood,” said Burnette.

He said, like many young people, Barone experimented with recreational drugs — but then he matured and became a mainstream member of society.

“His entire life was swept out from underneath him in a single day. His home, his business, his marriage and his ability to see his children grow up in the home they designed. And all this over a 34-year-old drug conviction,” Burnette said.

A public “Let’s Bring Him Home” rally on behalf of Barone was tentatively planned by friends for Sunday afternoon in downtown Hood River. However, the event has been postponed until more information becomes available about how to best support Barone.

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