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United States v. Hunte

January 4, 2006

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
ALLISON M. HUNTE, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gold, S., United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Introduction

The United States of America, acting on behalf of the government of Barbados, has requested the extradition of Allison Hunte pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3184 and the Extradition Treaty Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Barbados (the "Treaty"). Hunte faces charges in Barbados of trafficking in a controlled substance. I have conducted an extensive hearing addressed to whether the evidence presented by the Government of Barbados is sufficient to support extradition and whether Hunte has established any defense to extradition. Testimony was presented on March 14, April 5, April 20, May 27, and June 8, 2005, and closing arguments were presented on June 22, 2005. My findings and rulings are set forth in this Memorandum and Order.

Background

On November 10, 2002, Barbados police arrested two men who were attempting to bring suitcases of marijuana into the country. The two men implicated three other individuals in connection with their drug trafficking. One of those individuals was Allison Hunte. Hunte was subsequently arrested and charged with trafficking in cannabis. In January of 2003, in violation of the bail conditions imposed upon her in Barbados, Hunte fled to New York, where she lived and traveled under her own name until her arrest at John F. Kennedy Airport on June 7, 2004 on the Barbados extradition warrant.

Hunte opposes extradition on two grounds. First, she contends that the government has failed to establish probable cause to support the charges pending against her in Barbados, as the Treaty requires. Second, Hunte challenges her extradition on due process grounds by arguing that she entered into a cooperation agreement with the United States Drug Enforcement Agency ("DEA") which provided that she would not be extradited to Barbados. At an earlier stage in these proceedings, I considered whether Hunte should be afforded discovery on her due process claim. In that context, I held that an explicit promise by the United States government could be a valid defense to an extradition request. Docket Entry 29; United States v. Hunte, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1209 (E.D.N.Y. Jan. 24, 2005).

Discussion

I. Scope of Extradition Hearing

As discussed in my prior Order, an extradition hearing is narrow in scope and should not be converted into a "dress rehearsal trial." Docket Entry 29 at 2; United States v. Hunte, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 1209 (E.D.N.Y. Jan. 24, 2005) (quoting Jhirad v. Ferrandina, 536 F.2d 478, 484 (2d Cir. 1976)); see also Melia v. United States, 667 F.2d 300, 302 (2d Cir. 1981) ("An extradition hearing is not the occasion for an adjudication of guilt or innocence. Rather, its purpose is to determine . . . whether there is sufficient evidence to justify extradition under the appropriate treaty."); In re Requested Extradition of McMullen, 1988 WL 70296, at *5 (S.D.N.Y. June 24, 1988); In re Sindona, 450 F. Supp. 672, 685 (S.D.N.Y. 1978) (holding that an accused may not offer contradictory evidence or evidence attacking credibility at an extradition hearing, but may offer "explanatory" evidence negating a showing of probable cause). The limited purpose of an extradition hearing is to determine whether the requesting country has presented sufficient evidence to justify holding the defendant to answer the charges pending against her, and is not to determine whether or not the defendant is guilty of those charges. See Charlton v. Kelly, 229 U.S. 447, 460-61, 33 S.Ct. 945, 949 (1913). Nevertheless, in large part because of Hunte's unusual due process claim, I allowed her to present extensive evidence in support of her efforts to negate probable cause and to establish that she had been assured by government agents that she would not be extradited. Hunte presented eight witnesses, testified herself, and introduced more than fifty exhibits during the course of the hearing.

II. Probable Cause

A. Treaty Provisions

The Treaty provides for extradition upon a showing of probable cause that the requested individual has committed an extraditable offense. Treaty, Article 6, ¶ 3(c).*fn1 An extraditable offense is one punishable by both governments by at least one year of incarceration. Treaty, Article 2, ¶ 1. According to the Declaration of Haley D. Collums, an Attorney Advisor in the United States Department of State, the offense with which Hunte is charged in Barbados is punishable under the laws of the United States and Barbados by at least one year of incarceration. Government Exhibit ("GX") 1 at 3, ¶ 5. Hunte does not contend that there is any technical defect in the extradition request submitted by Barbados. Rather, her opposition to extradition rests upon her claims that the charges against her in Barbados are not supported by probable cause and that, before she fled from Barbados, agents of the United States government promised to protect her from extradition. I therefore turn my attention to the evidence submitted by Barbados in support of extradition and presented by the parties at the extradition hearing.

B. Evidence Presented by the Government

On November 10, 2002, police officers in Barbados arrested Alrick Johnson and Oneil Welds after searching their hotel room and finding several packages of marijuana. GX 1 at 59-61, 106-109. The police investigation of Johnson and Welds ultimately led to the arrest of Allison Hunte. The evidence against Hunte included statements made by Johnson, Welds, a customs officer named Robert Alleyne and a police clerk named Harry Agard, as well as Hunte's own apparently false exculpatory statements.

On the day he was arrested, Johnson made a signed, written post-arrest statement. GX 1 at 62-65, 72-79. In his statement, Johnson directly implicated Hunte, as well as a customs officer, Robert Alleyne, and a police department clerk, Harry Agard, in a drug smuggling conspiracy. Id. at 62-65. Specifically, Johnson stated, "I brought the drugs to Barbados for a woman in Barbados named Allison." Id. at 62. Johnson provided a detailed description of Hunte, which included a reference to a tattoo on Hunte's lower back. Id.

According to Johnson, Hunte asked him to smuggle marijuana to Barbados for her and paid him when he did so. Id. at 63. In furtherance of the drug smuggling conspiracy, Hunte and another individual told Johnson that one of the customs officers working at the airport in Barbados would assist in getting the drugs through customs when the code name "Ghetto Prince" was mentioned. Id. at 63-65. Johnson also described entering Barbados on November 9, 2002, presenting himself to the customs officer, using the code name "Ghetto Prince," and clearing customs without his bags being searched. Id. at 65. Johnson provided the police with a detailed description of the customs officer. Id. at 63.

According to Johnson, he had several telephone conversations with Hunte concerning drug smuggling prior to November 10, 2002. Id. at 63-64. Johnson also described being paid by Hunte on at least three separate occasions. Id. at 63. Johnson stated that he brought marijuana to Barbados for Hunte on July 8 and September 19, 2002, and was paid by Hunte, who wired money to him through Western Union from St. Lucia, upon his arrival in Barbados. Id. at 63. A review of immigration records confirmed that Johnson entered Barbados from Jamaica on July 8 and September 19, 2002. Id. at 91.

It is not clear from Johnson's first post-arrest statement whether he met with Hunte in Barbados in July and September or just received a payment from her through Western Union. Id. at 63-67. However, in his first statement, Johnson did describe meeting with Hunte some time between October 3 and 10 of 2002 in Jamaica, and again at the Craft Market in Montego Bay, Jamaica on the morning of November 9, 2002. Id. at 62-67. Johnson also stated that Hunte was on the flight he and Welds took from Jamaica to Barbados, but got off the plane when it landed in Antigua. Id. at 64.

Johnson gave a second statement to the police in Barbados on November 12, 2002. Id. at 66-67. In his second statement, Johnson stated that he first met Hunte some time after July 8, 2002, and not in May of that year as he had previously stated. Johnson did not state how long after July 8, 2002 the meeting took place. Id. He also stated that, because he did not want to receive wired funds from Hunte in his own name, he arranged with Hunte that the funds would be sent in the name of his friend, Ferdie Hinds. Id. While at the police station on November 12, 2002, Johnson correctly identified Hunte from a lineup. Id. at 68-69, 138. On the following day, Johnson identified the customs officer who responded to the code name "Ghetto Prince" from a lineup. Id. at 70-71, 141.

Oneil Welds, who was arrested with Johnson in the hotel room on November 10, 2002, spoke to the police at the time of his arrest, but declined to give a written statement at that time. Id. at 109. In his verbal statements, Welds stated that he brought marijuana into Barbados with Johnson, that Johnson directed him to present himself to a particular customs officer and use the code phrase "Ghetto Prince," and that Johnson told him they were bringing in the drugs for a woman named Allison. Id. The next day, Welds gave a written post-arrest statement. Id. at 97-103. In his statement, Welds again described how Johnson instructed him to present himself to a particular customs officer and to use the code phrase "Ghetto Prince." Id. at 102. Welds stated that, when he used the code name, the customs officer nodded, and that the officer did not look inside of his suitcases. Id. at 102-03. On November 13, 2002, Welds identified the customs officer from a lineup. Id. at 104-05, 145.

Robert Alleyne, the corrupt customs officer, provided further corroboration of Johnson's statements. During a search of Alleyne's home on November 13, 2002, police officers found three plastic bags and a carton containing currency. Id. at 119-20. At that time, Alleyne stated that some of the money came from traders who paid him to clear packages. Id. at 121. Alleyne was then asked to accompany the officers to the police station, where he was questioned. Id. at 120-22. Once at the station, Alleyne further stated that, although he had arrangements with several traders, he dealt with one in particular named Allison Hunte, and that he cleared shipments of garments for her. Id. at 121. Alleyne further acknowledged using the code name "Ghetto Prince" and allowing Johnson and Welds to clear customs at the request of a man named Harry Agard who works at a police station. Id. at 121-22.

On November 14, 2002, the police executed a search warrant for the home of Harry Agard. Id. at 146-48. Agard had been employed, like Alleyne, as a customs officer, but was later transferred to police headquarters, where he worked as a clerical officer. Id. at 90. The officers first found Agard at work at the police station and invited him to accompany them to his home. Id. at 146. In response to police questioning, Agard confessed, "I do some deals with Allison and Robert and some Jamaicans with some drugs and garments and I would get the money to pay Robert." Id. at 147. Agard later specified that Allison and Robert were Allison Hunte and customs officer Robert Alleyne. Id.

Finally, Hunte's own conduct when confronted by police provides further corroboration of Johnson's statements. Hunte was arrested and taken to a police station on November 12, 2002. Id. at 109. Hunte was questioned at the precinct in the presence of her attorney. Id. at 110. Despite Alleyne's statement that he dealt in particular with Hunte, Hunte at first denied knowing a customs officer named Robert Alleyne or any other customs officers. Id. at 110-11. Hunte further denied ever calling a customs officer on her cell phone. Id. at 111. Customs Officer Alleyne was then brought into the area and identified Hunte as the person for whom he had agreed to clear shipments of garments. Id. Hunte then acknowledged knowing Alleyne as Bob and having his telephone number saved in her cell phone's memory because she called him once after an airport Redcap had used her phone to call Alleyne. Id.

C. Evidence Presented by Hunte

During the extradition hearing, Hunte attempted to negate the government's showing of probable cause in three ways: 1) by offering evidence which she claims contradicts some of Johnson's statements; 2) by offering affidavits from Johnson recanting his incriminating statements about Hunte and from Agard asserting that Hunte was not involved in his drug smuggling activities; and 3) by suggesting that Johnson had a motive to implicate Hunte falsely.

1) Documents Tending to Contradict Johnson's Statements

Hunte presented testimony and documentary evidence of her whereabouts at or about the times Johnson claimed to have met with her in an effort to show that she was elsewhere at those times. See Defendant's Post-Hearing Memorandum of Law, Docket Entry 47 ("Def. Mem.") at 12-13; Tr. of Mar. 14, 2005, at 29-171. As noted above, Johnson told police officials that he first met Hunte in Barbados some time after July 8, 2002, but did not specify how long after July 8, 2002 the meeting took place. GX 1 at 66. In an effort to contradict Johnson's statement, Hunte presented evidence that she was in the Bahamas, Miami, and then New York in early to mid-July. Def. Ex. A-1, E, V, NN, HHH; Mar. 14, ...


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