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Escapee’s New Life Crashes Down After 14 Years of Freedom

Times Staff Writer

It was 14 years ago when Ray Brown walked away from North Carolina’s Craggy Prison, where he was serving a 10-year sentence for stealing $300 worth of beer and cigarettes from a grocery store. Eventually, he made his way to California and settled down to what his wife and attorney say was a quiet, straight life.

But now the 39-year-old Carson man is back behind bars in Los Angeles--and may be on his way back to Craggy Prison to serve the remaining years of his original sentence, plus an additional term for escape.

This despite the fact that in 1981 a former governor of California--Edmund G. Brown Jr.--worked out an agreement with the former governor of North Carolina--James B. Hunt--under which the fugitive would not be extradited on the old charges if he stayed out of trouble with the law.

His attorney, Susan Guberman-Garcia, said he was placed on a kind of informal parole and has lived up to the agreement to keep out of trouble, working as a self-employed auto mechanic.

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But in March, 1983, Brown was arrested and charged with rape. At that time, then-Los Angeles Dist. Atty. Robert H. Philibosian wrote a letter to North Carolina authorities advising them of the rape charge.

“You should be aware,” the letter also noted, “that California has a new governor (Gov. George Deukmejian) with more conservative policies toward all law enforcement policies.” But when Brown was acquitted of the rape charge by a Los Angeles jury on May 31, 1983, Philibosian’s office apparently did not inform North Carolina authorities, Guberman-Garcia said.

On July 1, 1983, Hunt renewed his request for Brown’s extradition and Deukmejian signed the extradition warrant 13 months later, in August, 1984.

The warrant was finally served on Brown at his home Monday. His arraignment is scheduled for Friday in Los Angeles Municipal Court.

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Brown’s lawyer said Wednesday that she will seek a writ in Los Angeles Superior Court in an attempt to stop her client’s extradition.

She claimed Brown is the victim of a series of bureaucratic blunders--or maybe worse.

“Ray complied with the requirements (of the agreement), he has done nothing wrong,” she said. “We feel it is wrong of North Carolina to renege on a promise not to extradite Ray. If he had been convicted of the rape, then it would have been fair. . . . But he was acquitted.”

She said that if the North Carolina governor made the decision to extradite Brown “knowing Ray had been acquitted . . . then he has been double-crossed. If he did it without knowing he had been acquitted, then they just made a mistake, in which case I will ask the governor (Hunt has been succeeded by James Martin) to rescind the extradition.”

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A spokesman for the Los Angeles district attorney’s office said it is required by law to proceed with the extradition process and will do so on Friday.

Meantime, Brown is being held without bail in Los Angeles County Jail.


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