PASSINGS: Jonathan ‘Jack’ Idema, Robert Fortune Sanchez

Jonathan ‘Jack’ Idema

Convicted of running private Afghan jail

Jonathan “Jack” Idema, 55, a former member of the U.S. Army Special Forces convicted of running a private jail in Afghanistan where he tortured terrorism suspects, died of AIDS on Saturday, according to the director-general of police in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo, Arturo Olivares Mendiola.

Idema had moved to Mexico after being released from prison in Afghanistan in 2007, when he was pardoned by President Hamid Karzai as part of a general amnesty.


A native of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., Idema joined the Army in 1975 and was a member of the Army Special Forces, known as Green Berets, until 1978. He later settled in North Carolina and began a series of bizarre and sometimes criminal misadventures while pursuing the national spotlight.

Idema was, among other things, a plaintiff in numerous unsuccessful lawsuits, including one against filmmaker Steven Spielberg, who Idema claimed stole his life story for a movie. He also spent three years in jail in the 1980s after being convicted of a fraud charge.

After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Idema traveled to Afghanistan, claiming he was close to catching Osama bin Laden. His claims led to his being featured in several books and on television programs.

In 2004, he returned to the country along with another former U.S. soldier and a freelance videographer. They ran a private jail in which terrorism suspects were tortured for information. Although convicted of the offenses, Idema denied them in a 2004 interview with the Associated Press.


He claimed that his operation was conceived with the knowledge and support of American and Afghan military authorities, which they denied, saying any connection was entirely in his imagination.

Robert Fortune Sanchez

U.S.’ first Latino bishop

Robert Fortune Sanchez, 77, who became the nation’s first Latino bishop in 1974 and headed New Mexico’s largest Catholic diocese for nearly two decades before resigning over sex allegations, died Friday in Albuquerque, said officials with the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. It did not release the cause of death, but he had been living at a nursing home for patients with Alzheimer’s disease.


The Latino ministry and cultural preservation programs Sanchez initiated during his tenure continue to be models. He was also the first archbishop to offer an apology to the Native American communities of New Mexico for a history that stretched back to the days of Spanish colonization.

Sanchez resigned in 1993 after three women accused him of being sexually involved with them in the 1970s and early 1980s when they were teenagers.

Some critics complained that he didn’t do enough to discipline priests who were accused of sexual misconduct. At the time of his resignation, more than a dozen lawsuits were pending against the Santa Fe archdiocese alleging priest sexual abuse.

Born March 20, 1934, in Socorro, N.M., Sanchez studied for the priesthood at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, where he earned degrees in philosophy and theology. He was ordained a priest in 1959 and returned to New Mexico.


Nationally, Sanchez served on the bishops’ committee for Hispanic affairs and was appointed by Pope John Paul II to the Vatican’s Commission on Immigration Affairs.

-- Los Angeles Times wire reports