April 28, 2011 —
Artist Franciszek Kulon, well known in the region because of, among other things, his strikingly realistic depictions of local officials in various states of undress and compromising positions, is appealing to Congressman Maurice Hinchey.
Kulon, who immigrated to the United States from Poland more than 25 years ago, and who was granted political asylum, has recently been denied U.S citizenship. A letter from the Department of Homeland Security, Citizen and Naturalization Service (CNS) from September 2010 explains that his application was denied because he failed to meet the “good moral character” requirement of the application.
Specifically, the letter sites his 1998 arrest and an order of protection issued against him at the same time, regarding his neighbor, James D’Ambrose, with whom he had a strained relationship. But court documents from the time indicate that D’Ambrose was the one that should have been arrested (which eventually happened), and against whom the order of protection should have been brought.
A letter to be sent to Hinchey’s office on April 18 lays out the case. About 14 years ago, D’Ambrose accused Kulon of various transgressions and local officials, who knew D’Ambrose, repeatedly sided with him against Kulon. Kulon was also at a disadvantage because of the language barrier. At one point, Kulon was arrested because D’Ambrose accused him of stealing a rifle.
Kulon’s letter, composed with the help of an English-speaking friend, says, “I asked Judge Keith Zanetti for time to arrange for an attorney, some witnesses and an interpreter to ensure that my poor command of English would not put me at a disadvantage. These requests were denied. D’Ambrose then told his side of the story. When D’Ambrose was finished, I tried to speak but Judge Zanetti said he could only listen to my lawyer (the one he prevented me from getting). The proceedings ended immediately thereafter. I was not allowed even to defend myself…. I was ordered to pay the court fees. In desperation, I simply paid them and went home, hoping the whole incident would be closed. The denial of my application for citizenship shows how wrong I was.”
The situation changed dramatically after Kulon was able to get a lawyer. Court documents showed that D’Ambrose was accused of attempted murder against Kulon when, in 1999, according to the documents, he fired a 112-guage shotgun at Kulon while Kulon was on his tractor.
A grand jury was convened in the matter, but according to a letter written to Kulon in June 2000 by Sullivan County Assistant District Attorney Karen Mannino, D’Ambrose pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of reckless endangerment and left the area.
Kulon’s lawyer, William Brenner, said he thought the decision by CNS to deny Kulon’s application for citizenship was erroneous because all of the charges against Kulon made by D’Ambrose should have been erased from the record.
Kulon said he will appeal the CNS decision and, in the meantime, Hinchey’s office is considering his request.
Kulon said that if he can’t achieve citizenship, he is considering leaving the United States and may re-settle in Russia or somewhere else in Europe. But he can’t do that right now because officially he is a man without a state.