Help The Chapmans Fight Extradition To Mexico

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Could Dog Be Worth $300 Million To The United States?

Gilberto and Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela, the leaders of the Cali drug cartel, were extradited from Columbia to the United States in 2004 and 2005 respectively. Earlier today, the brothers pleaded guilty to drug trafficking and agreed to forfeit $2.1 billion in tainted assets to the United States.

If you read the post "Was Dog's Arrest Part of a Prisoner Exchange Agreement Between Mexico and the United States?," you'll see that there is evidence to suggest that Dog may have been "traded" for Mexican drug lord, Javier Arellano-Felix.

Javier is not to be confused with his brother Raphael Arellano-Felix who was extradited to the United States on September 16th -- two days after Dog's arrest. Many people think Dog was "traded" for Raphael -- but I believe he was traded for Javier who was captured by the U.S. Coast Guard off the coast of Mexico last month (another forcible abduction by the U.S. to piss off Mexico?).

Anyway, early news articles reported that the Mexican government was planning to request the United States to extradite Javier to Mexico to face drug charges there. Weeks later, in September, the Mexican government changed its position and stated that it probably would not seek Javier's extradition until after the United States prosecuted him.

What does the United States have to gain from prosecuting Javier here instead of letting him be tried by his own people in Mexico? About $300 million in assets linked to drug trafficking according to the indictment filed by the United States. (U.S. law permits the United States to recover the drug trafficking proceeds from convicted drug dealers.)

And what does Mexico gain from agreeing to let the U.S. prosecute Javier? I don't know -- Dog, maybe? See my post below "Why Does Mexico Want Dog So Badly?"

Monday, September 25, 2006

Why Mexico Wants Dog So Badly: American Bounty Hunting Is An Offense To Mexican Sovereignty

American bounty hunters have broad powers. In 1872, in Taylor v. Taintor, the U.S. Supreme Court held that a bounty hunter in pursuit of a bail-jumper "may pursue him into another State; may arrest him on the Sabbath; and, if necessary, may break and enter his house for that purpose." The U.S. Supreme court also made it clear, however, in Reese v. United States, that American bounty hunters may not pursue suspects across international borders. Specifically, a U.S. bounty hunter's "power of arrest can only be exercised within the territory of the United States."

Bounty hunting (at least by Americans) is illegal in Mexico. Indeed, Mexico views bounty hunters as serious law violators -- as rogue cops and violators of Mexican national sovereignty. Until 1990, Mexican police typically tolerated bounty hunting and many Mexican police were well paid to assist bounty hunters in their efforts.

Bounty hunting by U.S. citizens became a politically senstive issue in Mexico in 1990 when U.S. DEA agents hired Mexican bounty hunters to kidnap Humberto Alvarez-Machain, a Mexican doctor, and bring him into the United States to face charges for his alleged participation in the murder of DEA Agent Enrique Camarero. Without filing an extradition request or notifying Mexican authorities, the DEA hired armed Mexican bounty hunters that kidnapped Alvarez-Machain from his office and flew him by private plane to El Paso, Texas where he was arrested.

Mexico and the international community fiercely protested the abduction as a gross violation of Mexican sovereignty. The uproar was compounded by the U.S. Supreme Court's 1992 decision in the case that held that Alvarez-Machain could be tried in the United States for violations of U.S. criminal law even though his forcible abduction was "probably" in violation of principles of international law. (In the end, Alvarez-Machain was tried and aqcuitted).

As a result of the Alvarez-Machain incident, extradition relations between Mexico and the United States suffered a serious setback. At any given time, there are hundreds of Mexican nationals wanted for serious crimes in the United States that remain at large in Mexico.

Over the years, Mexico has also continued to arrest and imprison American bounty hunters that are caught in the act. Some articles state that there are currently between 100 and 200 American bounty hunters serving sentences in Mexican prisons.

Dog walked right into the middle of this international controversy in June 2003 when he captured Andrew Luster, a convicted fugitive rapist. There is evidence that Dog tried to conduct the capture in compliance with Mexican law. Some articles state that Dog had a Mexican police officer accompany him during the capture pursuant to the FBI's advice. What is undisputed is that Dog fled Mexico before his court date. Some reports say that the Mexican judge told Dog that he could not be extradited for a misdemeanor. Some reports say that Dog received "flawed legal advice" from his attorneys who told him that he would never be extradited if he fled.

So, why does Mexico want Dog so badly? As Mexican prosecutor Marco Roberto Juarez stated shortly after Dog's arrest in 2003, "A foreigner cannot come here and assume the functions of police and detain people." According to Juarez, Dog should have notified the Mexican police and let them make the arrest.

Coming soon: I've done a lot of research to try to analyze the legal and political hurdles that Dog will be facing in the coming months and am working on coming up with the best defenses to each of these issues. I plan to update this site every couple days with new posts that share the results of my research and suggest possible legal and political strategies. I plan to write a post on the pros and cons of extradition vs. bounty hunting (since this debate is at the center of the controversy in which Dog is now immersed); a post that explains the legal process that Dog is undergoing; if the government's extradition brief becomes publicly available, I will review it and try to offer legal arguments to oppose it; etc. If there are specific topics or issues that readers would like me to research and discuss, please leave me a comment or send me an email. (My email is on my profile page.)

Free The Chapmans!!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Is Dog's Arrest The Result Of A Prisoner Exchange Agreement Between The United States And Mexico?

Answer: Very likely.

Look at the sequence of events:

Sept. 13: Magistrate Judge Barry Kurren signs the warrant for the Chapmans' arrests.

Sept. 14: Dog, Tim, and Leland Chapmen are arrested by U.S. marshals and brought into federal custody.

Sept. 16: Mexico extradites Francisco Raphael Arellano-Felix, a member of the infamous Arellano-Felix drug cartel, to the United States to face charges for distribution of cocaine and conspiracy to distribute cocaine, carrying a maximum sentence of 30 years.

Sept. 19: Outgoing Mexican president, Vincente Fox, publicly states that Mexico is willing to extradite any drug lord in Mexico's custody that is wanted by the United States. Before Raphael's extradition on Sept. 16, Mexico had balked at sending drug kingpins to the United States, arguing that they should be brought to justice in Mexico and refusing to send anyone to the United States that would face the death penalty (and before November 2005, refusing to send anyone to the United States that would face life imprisonment).

Sept. 19: Later that same day, Arturo Sarakhan, a senior aide to incoming Mexican president Felipe Caulderon, stated that, when Calderon takes office on December 1, 2006, he will use extradition to the United States as a major weapon against Mexican drug smuggling gangs. The United States is believed to have requested Mexico to extradite three other major drug lords: (1) Osiel Cardenas, head of the Gulf Cartel; (2) Hector "El Guero" Palma, a leader of the Sinaloa Cartel; and (3) Benjamin Arellano-Felix, the leader of the Felix-Arellano Cartel until his arrest in March 2002.

Facts Supporting The Argument That The United States "Traded" Dog For Raphael.

1. Dog and Raphael are both bail-jumpers. Dog jumped bail in Mexico in July 2003 after he was arrested in Mexico for illegally detaining convicted rapist and fugitive Andrew Luster. Raphael jumped bail in the United States after he was arrested for selling 9 ounces of cocaine to an undercover police officer in a San Diego motel in 1980.

2. Dog and Raphael are both well-known public figures (albeit for very different reasons). Dog is a reality television star in the United States. Raphael is a member of the infamous Arellano-Felix drug cartel. Because both men are so well-known, each extradition sends a loud message to the public. In Raphael's case, the message is that Mexican drug dealers can't escape being prosecuted in the United States for their crimes. In Dog's case, the message is that Mexico will not tolerate United States citizens coming into Mexico and apprehending suspects in violation of Mexican law. Bounty hunting is illegal in Mexico and American citizens must respect that or face the consequences of their unauthorized actions on Mexican soil.

Maybe, Just Maybe, Dog's Arrest Is Part Of A Larger Controvesy Between The United States And Mexico.

On the prisoner exchange issue, the media's attention has been focused on the extradition of Raphael Arellano-Felix. The media has asserted that Dog may have been "traded" for Raphael. No one, however, has focused on the capture of Raphael's brother, Javier Arellano-Felix, by the United States Coast Guard off the coast of Mexico just last month. If Dog's arrest is the result of any prisoner exchange agreement between the United States and Mexico, it's much more likely to be the result of negotiations between Mexico and the United States over which country is entitled to prosecute Javier Arellano-Felix, the reputed leader of the Arellano-Felix Cartel.

This argument is based on: (1) the background on the Arellano-Felix Cartel, including the recent capture of Javier off the coast of Mexico by the U.S. Coast Guard and (2) the frosty relations between Mexico and the United States stemming from the United States' repeated attempts to enforce U.S. law extraterritorially in Mexico.

The Arellano-Felix Drug Cartel.

Until several years ago, the Arellano-Felix Cartel was Mexico's most powerful and feared drug cartel, running a vast smuggling operation out of the border city of Tijuana. There are at least five siblings that have controlled the cartel since the late 1980s. The Cartel is accused of smuggling tons of cocaine and other drugs into the United States for over a decade and for bribing public officials and murdering people on both sides of the Mexico/United States border.

Raphael Arellano-Felix, 56 years old, is the eldest of the clan. He was arrested in Mexico in 1993 and served a 10 year prison sentence in Mexico for cartel related offenses. Raphael's prison term ended in 2004, but the Mexican authorities continued to detain him in a Mexican prison pending the United States' request to extradite him, which was finally granted last week (two years later).

The Cartel lost some of its power in 2002, when its enforcer, Ramon Arellano-Felix was killed in a shootout with police and his brother, Benjamin, the gang's mastermind and leader, was arrested and jailed in March 2002.

It is believed that following Benjamin's arrest in March 2002, Javier Arellano-Felix (and possibly another brother Eduardo Arellano-Felix) assumed leadership of the cartel. To give you an idea of how important Javier and Eduardo are to the United States, the U.S. State Department put a $5 million dollar bounty each on the heads of Javier and Eduardo.

In mid-August 2006, Javier Arellano-Felix, the youngest brother (age 36), was arrested by the U.S. Coast Guard, along with 10 other people believed to be a part of the Arellano-Felix Cartel, on a ship off the coast of La Paz, Mexico. Javier was taken to San Diego to face charges of racketeering, conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to distribute cocaine and marijuana, and conspiracy for money laundering. The United States has indicated that it may seek the death penalty against Javier.

Shortly thereafter, Mexican Attorney General, Daniel Cabaza de Vaca, stated that the Mexican authorities would request the extradition of Javier so that he could answer for crimes committed in Mexico where he is wanted for murder, possession of illegal weapons, and organized crime. Mexico does not permit the death penalty.

In September 2006, Mexico did an about-face and stated that they would likely not request Javier's extradition until after the United States prosecuted him.

Did Dog's arrest have something to do with this about-face by the Mexican government? Did the United States agree to initiate extradition proceedings against Dog in exchange for Mexico's agreement that it would not seek Javier's extradition until Javier was prosecuted and sentenced in the United States?

We have to examine each country's extradition laws and the the foreign relations between both countries in the past several years to determine the answer to that one. So, let's begin:

The Extradition Treaty Between The United States And Mexico

Mexico and the United States entered into an extradition treaty on May 4, 1978 (31 U.S.T. 5059, T.I.A.S. No. 9656). The treaty provides a laundry list of crimes for which either country may request a suspect's extradition.

Limitations on Extradition (United States)

In addition, each country has its own laws that further restrict extradition under different circumstances. Under U.S. law, the United States will not extradite a suspect to Mexico unless the crime is: (1) within the scope of the Mexican/U.S. Treaty; (2) a crime in both Mexico and the United States; and (3) not subject to the policital offense exception.

Limitations on Extradition (Mexico)

In contrast to U.S. extradition law which is very lenient in favor of granting extradition, Mexican law has been very restrictive. Mexico will not extradite any suspect that will face the death penalty in the United States. Mexican law became even more restrictive on October 2, 2001, when the Mexican Supreme Court ruled that life sentences are cruel and unusual punishment. As a result of this law, Mexico refused to extradite any suspects to the United States unless the United States provided an assurrance that it would not seek life imprisonment.

As a result of the Mexican Supreme Court decision, very few suspects were extradited from Mexico to the United States between 2001 and 2005. Specifically, Mexico extradited to the United States 17 suspects in 2001, 25 in 2002, 31 in 2003, 34 in 2004, and 41 in 2005.

The Mexican Supreme Court overruled this decision on November 29, 2005, and held that criminal suspects faving life prison sentences abroad can be extradited from Mexico for prosecution.

The Aftermath of the November 2005 Mexican Court Decision Permitting Extradition For Life Sentences.

Mexican president Vincente Fox has observed, "Extradition in Mexico is a complex, very tortuous process."

There is evidence that, in the past year, Mexico has ignored its own extradition procedures and has illegally "extradited" at least four suspects to the United States.

Tongsun Park.

Tongsun Park was charged in New York for his participation in the UN's "Oil For Food" Program. In January 2006, he was stopped by Mexican immigration authorities and then U.S. FBI agents stationed in Mexico City escorted him on a Continental Airlines flight from Mexico to Houston where he was taken into custody. This is an example of Mexico sending a suspect to the United States without following the mandated legal processes of extradition or deporation.

Arthur March.

In January 2006, Mexico illegally "extradited" a second suspect from Mexico to the United States. Arthur March was arrested in front of his favorite donut shop in Mexico by Mexican police and then transferred to U.S. FBI custody in Gaudalajara, Mexico where he was then sent to Houston. March was picked up on an interpol warrant -- under which he would normally face deportation or an extradition hearing. Mexico, however, found it more convenient to simply put March on a plane without following any of its own established legal procedures for deportation or extradition.

Jose Ernesto Beltrain.

Beltrain is a Mexican man that was accused of making up a story about a planned nuclear terrorist attack on Boston. Under the U.S./Mexican Treaty, Beltrain probably would not have been extradited had he gone through a formal extradition hearing because "hoax-making" is not a crime under Mexican law (and thus not a basis for extradition under the treaty). Mexican police circumvented this "technicality" by arresting Beltrain and turning him over to the U.S. FBI who then escorted Beltrain to San Diego to face charges.

Salvadore Rodriguez Jr.

In March 2006, Rodriguez was "extradited" to the United States. It is unclear whether he went through the normal extradition process. Typically, a person who is formally extradited is transferred to the custody of U.S. Marshals. Here, Rodriguez was transferred to the custody of the U.S. FBI. This could mean he was deported or that he was simply summarily removed from Mexico as were Park, March, and Beltrain.

The United States' Complicity In Mexico's Illegal "Extradition" Of Suspects From Mexico To The United States.

In 1992, the United States Supreme Court held that the fact of a suspect's forcible abduction from Mexico does not prohibit his trial in the United States for violations of U.S. criminal laws. United States v. Alvarez-Machain, 504 U.S. 655 (1992). In that case, U.S. authorities abducted a Mexican citizen from his home in Mexico and flew him to the United States to stand trial for criminal charges stemming from his participation in the murder of a DEA agent. The U.S. Supreme Court held that even though Alvarez-Machain's abduction was "shocking" and possibly in violation of general international law principles and even though Mexico had protested the abduction through diplomatic notes, Alvarez-Machain's abduction did not violate the U.S./Mexican Extradition Treaty and thus he could be tried in the United States. In other words, the U.S. Supreme Court basically held that U.S. law permits a suspect to be illegally removed (ie, kidnapped) from Mexico to stand trial in the United States.

TO BE CONTINUED..............