Bermudian faces extradition to US
A Bermudian convicted in connection with a car crash in the United States that left a teenager with permanent brain injury should be extradited, the Supreme Court has ruled.
Paul Martin, 64, pleaded guilty in September 2006 to a charge of vehicular assault in the second degree, but he quit his job and returned to Bermuda before he could be sentenced.
An arrest warrant was issued by Westchester County Court in New York in November 2006, although an extradition request was not made until May 2018.
The request was approved by the Magistrates' Court, but Martin launched an appeal on the basis of the delay.
He also argued that the sentence issued in his absence — between one and three years behind bars — was unconstitutional. But Puisne Judge Shade Subair Williams upheld the extradition request in a decision released last month.
She said: “Mr Martin, undeniably on the evidence before the magistrate, absconded from the US to avoid his pending sentence.
“It is hardly open to him to now suggest that the US authorities should share in his responsibility for the ensuing delay, notwithstanding any fair criticism that they delayed in locating the appellant since January 2007 when it was confirmed that he entered Bermuda.
Mrs Justice Subair Williams added: “The chain of causation, in my judgment, is unbroken.”
The Supreme Court heard Martin was living in the US when he was involved in a traffic collision on December 7, 2005.
The victim, 18-year-old Christian Dobson, was in a broken-down car parked on the Sprain Brook Parkway in New York with his hazard warning lights on.
Mr Dobson's car was struck from behind by Martin's vehicle with enough force to push the car about 100ft.
Mr Dobson suffered severe brain damage in the crash, which left him in a temporary coma.
He also experienced permanent damage to his vocal chords and now walks with a limp.
Martin pleaded guilty in Westchester County Court in 2006 and was to be sentenced in December that year.
He was told the sentence would be “capped” at six months in prison followed by probation.
However, Martin quit his job in an October letter, which said he had to leave the country.
Martin said in an affidavit that he had only pleaded guilty because he could not afford to fight the charges.
He added he had been assured he would not get more than 30 days in prison, but his lawyer warned him after he admitted the offence that he would be sentenced to three years behind bars.
Martin said: “I was terrified about doing that amount of time in prison for something I had not done, so when I was told there was nothing the lawyer could do about it, I decided to return to Bermuda.
“I am a Bermudian citizen. I planned to seek legal advice here when I could afford it.”
He said because of the lack of action, he believed the US authorities had dropped the case.
Martin added: “It seems most unfair to me to have my entire life disrupted, to lose everything I have here, to leave my family and friends and to lose my business after having worked hard for the past 12 years to establish myself here.”
Mrs Justice Suabir Williams said the US court never told him it would not pursue him, so his belief the case was over was “unfounded”.
She added that the US court was free to change its sentence cap after he decided to run.
Mrs Justice Subair Williams said: “Having absconded as the appellant did, the US court clearly determined that the appellant could no longer be treated as a resident in the US who was suitable for the probation sentence which largely featured in the combined sentence originally envisaged.
“Thus the sentence passed was converted to a pure prison sentence in circumstances where the alternative to an imprisonment-only sentence was no longer suitable. I find nothing constitutionally offensive about this.”
She dismissed the appeal and ordered that the extradition should go ahead.
• To view the judgment delivered by Shade Subair Williams, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”
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