Man loses US extradition fight over car crash court case
A Bermudian man who fled the US 14 years ago after he was involved in a crash that seriously injured a teenager has lost a fight against extradition.
Paul Martin, 64, argued that his extradition order should be brought before the Privy Council for a judicial review.
But Puisne Judge Shade Subair Williams denied his request for leave to appeal in a ruling delivered in the Supreme Court on Monday.
Mrs Justice Subair Williams said: “I see no reasonable or meritorious basis for an argument that an extradition would be unfair and/or oppressive to Martin.
“There was no evidence before this court which would suggest that Martin’s circumstances were so exceptional so as to mitigate his culpability for having absconded the US authorities.”
Martin was living in the US when he was involved in a crash 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.
But before he could be sentenced Martin quit his job and returned to Bermuda.
Martin said in an affidavit that he had only pleaded guilty because he could not afford to fight the charges.
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 to the Supreme Court 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.
The Supreme Court dismissed his appeal in February, but Martin applied for leave to bring the case to London’s Privy Council for judicial review.
Susan Mulligan, council for Martin, argued that he should not be penalised by the US authorities’ failure to act for more than a decade.
Ms Mulligan said Martin was living “in plain sight” in Bermuda since his return, and the US knew he had returned to Bermuda by January 2007 yet did not seek extradition for another 11 years.
Mrs Justice Subair Williams said in her written ruling: “Martin deposed that the subsequent inaction on the part of the respondent caused him to believe that the criminal proceedings had come to an end and that no further steps would be taken against him.
“In other words, Martin felt that he had successfully bypassed the burden and responsibility of those criminal proceedings because a significant period of time had lapsed since his escape.”
She added: “Martin also sought to persuade this court that it would be unjust and/or oppressive for him to face his criminal liability in the US by pointing to the increase in his age and his un-particularised mobility challenges.
“He added that he is a Bermudian national and resident who has no ties to persons living in the US, notwithstanding his previous period of US residency.”
Mrs Justice Subair Williams said this was not a case where Martin had left the US because he did not understand the process – it was a case in which he fled to avoid sentence.
She said: “The evidence in this case was clear and unchallenged. Martin fled the US, having been convicted upon his guilty plea for offences arising out of a road traffic collision where he seriously injured Christian Dobson.
“He absconded from the US, thereby abruptly terminating his employment in October 2006, to escape the penalty of his sentence in criminal proceedings.”