Leon Wildes, Immigration Lawyer Who Defended John Lennon, Dies at 90

Leon Wildes, a New York immigration lawyer who successfully fought the United States government’s attempt to deport John Lennon, died on Monday in Manhattan. He was 90.

His death, at Lenox Hill Hospital, was confirmed by his son Michael.

For more than three years, from early 1972 to the fall of 1975, Mr. Wildes (pronounced WY-ulds) doggedly battled the targeting by the Nixon administration and immigration officials of Mr. Lennon, the former Beatle, and his wife, Yoko Ono, marshaling a series of legal arguments that exposed both political chicanery and a hidden U.S. immigration policy.

Uncovering secret records through the Freedom of Information Act, he showed that immigration officials, in practice, can exercise wide discretion in whom they choose to deport, a revelation that continues to resonate in immigration law. And he revealed that Mr. Lennon, an antiwar activist and a vocal critic of President Richard M. Nixon, had been singled out by the White House for political reasons.

Mr. Wildes was ultimately vindicated by the stinging decision of a federal appeals court in October 1975, which said that “the courts will not condone selective deportation based upon secret political grounds,” and which halted the effort to kick Mr. Lennon out of the country.

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