HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – The Hempstead pizza delivery man – at the center of an immigration firestorm this summer – returned to court Tuesday to face a domestic violence charge.
His case became a rallying cry and his face a fixture on the news as protesters fought to free Pablo Villavicencio from immigration detention.
A happy reunion with his wife and children followed after a judge ruled the undocumented Ecuadorian should be released from ICE custody.
Now, the 35-year-old tried to avoid cameras, slipping out a courthouse staircase after his wife pressed criminal mischief charges.
Villavicencio’s attorney claims the immigration saga took a toll on their marriage.
“Some marriages are strong enough to endure rough seas and storms, but his family has been through a hurricane,” Bruce Barket told CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff.
His new legal woes stem from an argument between Villavicencio and wife Sandra Chica in their Hempstead home which reportedly turned physical.
Chica claims Villavicencio demanded their children’s passports. When she refused, “this made Pablo very angry. He has been increasingly angry recently since I told him I wanted a divorce,” Chica said in court documents.
He “grabbed me by the right arm and pushed me against the wall… attempted to slap my chest/body but I blocked it with my arm.”
The undocumented deliveryman has been charged with preventing her from making an emergency call.
The Ecuadorian immigrant’s story became a hot button issue when he was detained while delivering a pizza at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn. An ID check at the case revealed that the father of two had an outstanding deportation warrant from 2010.
He was freed amid the public outcry and allowed to stay with his wife, a U.S. citizen, while pursed legal residency.
This arrest is likely to resurface in the national immigration debate, according to political expert Larry Levy.
“Republicans will say look we gave the guy a second chance and look what he does… Democrats will say this has nothing to do with immigration.”
There has been no public comment on all of this from Villavicencio’s wife, who championed his immigration case in June and July.
New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who was an outspoken supporter of freeing the 35-year-old over the summer, would not comment on the latest criminal charges.
“We don’t know all the details, but Senator Gillibrand is deeply disappointed by this story and believes this legal matter must be taken seriously,” a spokesperson for Sen. Gillibrand said in a statement.
Villavicencio is free on bail and was ordered to stay away from his wife.