In a legal maneuver that could delay extradition of former Los Angeles-based narcotics agent Darnell Garcia, attorneys for the one-time fugitive said Thursday they will seek to block his extradition from Luxembourg through a special court.
The lawyers--Mark A. Borenstein of Los Angeles and Carlo Revoldini of Luxembourg--said in separate interviews that the European Court of Human Rights, which sits in Strasbourg, France, will be asked to rule on efforts of U.S. prosecutors to try Garcia of Rancho Palos Verdes on drug-trafficking and money-laundering charges.
"If there is a ground for pursuing (the Court of Human Rights), then I think (Garcia) should do it," Borenstein said.
Revoldini said the special court will be petitioned when Garcia, 42, a former Drug Enforcement Administration agent who is in prison in Luxembourg, has used up his legal remedies in that country, but "not before."
At the same time, Revoldini said he has "made an official request" to the government of Luxembourg to allow Garcia to establish permanent residence there should he be set free.
Borenstein represents Garcia in civil litigation generated by the DEA corruption case.
Fugitive for 7 Months
No criminal attorney has yet been selected for Garcia, who was arrested in Luxembourg last July after being a fugitive for seven months.
Along with Garcia, defendants in the government's 42-count indictment are two other former DEA agents, John Jackson, 40, of Claremont and Wayne Countryman, 46, of Walnut; Jackson's wife, Barbara, 41, and Jackson's former business partner, Sherman Lair, 39, of Alta Loma.
Prosecutors have steadfastly maintained they do not want to try Garcia separately from the others. No trial date has been set.
The indictment, the result of a DEA corruption investigation, alleges that the three ex-DEA agents, all of whom worked in the agency's Los Angeles office, conspired to traffic in cocaine and heroin and laundered their profits through banks in Switzerland and Luxembourg.
Garcia was sentenced by Luxembourg authorities to six months in prison for entering Luxembourg on a false Mexican passport. His prison term expires Jan. 3.
Garcia, who is black and Puerto Rican, claimed discrimination against the DEA in the early 1980s on the basis of national origin.
In 1985, the DEA fired him for refusing a transfer to Detroit. He won reinstatement in a decision by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in 1986.
In a court filing last year, Borenstein said his client suspected that a federal grand jury investigation into the drug trafficking case "was a continuation of DEA's discriminatory actions" against Garcia. This issue could serve as a lever for getting Garcia's extradition fight before the Human Rights Court.
If the Human Rights Court, recognized by 23 Western European nations, takes jurisdiction, according to Warren Hewitt, a senior adviser in the State Department's Human Rights Bureau, Garcia's extradition could be significantly delayed.
"It could slow it down a great deal," he said.
Hewitt recalled that just last July the Court of Human Rights, in a landmark ruling, held that a West German being held in Great Britain and accused of killing two people in Virginia should not be extradited to the United States because he could receive the death penalty.