The Serious Offences Court has refused an application by the United States to extradite a Vincentian man, who is said to be among the most wanted people in Pennsylvania.
“The court has considered carefully the arguments and submissions, examined all affidavits and other evidence, case law, statutory guidelines and the court finds that given all the circumstances it would be unjust to return him,” Chief Magistrate Rechanne Browne said in a recent ruling.
US authorities wanted Kingstown to send Kern Z. Mayers back to Pennsylvania to answer to charges in relation to a Jan. 4, 2006 incident in that US state.
“Law enforcement attempted to initiate a traffic stop on a vehicle driven by Kern Mayers. In an attempt to flee from the police, Kern Mayers struck several vehicles and injured police officers. After a vehicle and foot pursuit, Kern Mayers was captured. Kern Mayers was released from the Luzerne County Correctional Facility and then failed to attend his scheduled court hearing on January 25, 2006,” the website Pennsylvania Crime Stoppers said of the allegation against Mayers.
Police in Kingstown arrested Mayers at a business place in the city on Dec. 10, 2020, a few years after he is said to have returned to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Lawyers Joseph Delves and Grant Connell represented him in the extradition hearing.
Connell also testified on Mayers’ behalf during the proceedings in which Rose-Ann Richardson appeared for the Crown.
In her ruling, the chief magistrate noted that the Crown had submitted that Mayers is a fugitive and should be returned to the United States to answer to the charges.
However, Delves submitted that not all the offences are relevant and that the Crown had not shown that the extradition is permitted under the Fugitive Offenders Act.
The chief magistrate pointed out that Mayers was arrested in SVG on the basis of being wanted in Pennsylvania, having not appeared at court on Jan. 25, 2006 for preliminary inquiry.
She noted that evidence was presented viva voce, by affidavit and documentary evidence.
Browne further pointed out that the Fugitive Offenders Act and the extradition treaty between SVG and the United States govern extradition between SVG and the United States.
The United States charged Mayers under two counts, with several charges under each count, including alleged possession of two grammes of cocaine and injuries to a police officer.
The court held that some of the counts were extraditable while others were not.
The chief magistrate noted that the law says a person shall not be returned if the court of committal is satisfied by reason of the trivial nature of the case, the accusation against the fugitive having not been made in good faith, the passage of time since the committal of the offence, any sufficient cause as it would, having regard to all circumstances be unjust or oppressive or too severe a punishment to return the fugitive.
The Crown argued that the issue of statute of limitation did not apply as Mayers absconded and had no reasonably ascertainable place of abode or work within the Commonwealth.
It was further contended that the offences were committed on Jan. 4, 2006 and he was immediately arrested and charged and soon thereafter failed to show up on Jan. 25, 2006 for hearing.
Despite the fact that five-year and two-year statutes of limitation exist, the limit is not applicable as the responded absconded, the Crown further argued.
However, Mayers’ lawyers contended that the passage of time was critical and having regard to all circumstances, it would be unjust, oppressive and too severe a punishment to send him back to face trial in the United States.
They argued that the offences were allegedly committed in January 2006 and the extradition proceedings commenced in 2021.
The lawyers told the court that 15 years is an inordinately long period and the prosecution of the offences should have commenced in 2011 and not in 2017.
They said there was no evidence that Mayers was not continuously in the Commonwealth between 2006 and 2011.
They also contended that an address of New York was given in 2017.
The court also noted that all charges were dated 2017, adding that even though the affidavit by James McMonagle Jr., the assistant district attorney for Pensylvania, said that that the complaints were destroyed in 2015, “What is the nexus between these matters before the court?”
US authorities said that the indictments were accidentally destroyed while documents were being purged.
And while they said that the court keeps copies of the original documents those exhibited in the extradition proceeding were documents filed in 2017, even as Mayers was indicted in 2006.
Mayers’ lawyers argued that the document that should be exhibited are those from 2006 and, therefore, the matter was really brought against Mayers in 2017 — way past the statute of limitation.
They pointed out that the US government did not explain why took so long and raised issues relating to the testing procedures, chaining of custody.
The lawyers also argued that Mayers would not receive a fair trial in the United States.
The chief magistrate said that the case law provided by counsel on both sides was insightful and helpful in making a decision.
She said that she also considered the amount of substance involved. “The procedure with regard the two grammes of cocaine, circumstances surrounding the testing, retrieving and maintaining the integrity of the exhibits, the chain of custody were all considered,” Browne said in handing her ruling.