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Jamaica extradition key in Conn. bail bond case

By Dave Collins
Associated Press / March 25, 2011

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HARTFORD — Jamaica’s extradition policy with the United States was a key issue as the Connecticut Supreme Court heard the case yesterday of a bail bond company that is fighting an order to forfeit to the state $125,000 in bonds it posted for an alleged marijuana dealer who fled to the island nation.

A Superior Court judge ordered Flavio Bail Bonds LLC of New Britain to forfeit the bonds to the state in 2008 after David Sheriff, a Jamaican national who lived in Bloomfield, fled to Jamaica as he was about to go on trial on drug charges. Sheriff remains at large, although the bail bond company’s owner says he knows Sheriff’s location in Jamaica.

In most cases, Jamaica refuses to extradite its citizens to the United States to face drug charges.

William Sweeney, Flavio’s lawyer, told the high court that the company should not have to forfeit the bonds because state prosecutors never tried to extradite Sheriff and the firm’s agents have no authority to go to Jamaica to capture Sheriff. He also argued that there is a conflict of interest in state laws on extradition and bond forfeitures, because they appear to discourage the state from seeking extradition with the prospect of filling its coffers with forfeited bond money.

Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Nancy Chupak told the justices that Flavio should have to forfeit the $125,000 because its agents knew the risk they were taking when they posted Sheriff’s bail. She said the simple fact is that Sheriff failed to show up in court after Flavio posted bonds knowing it would have to forfeit them if Sheriff disappeared.

“Flavio . . . agreed unconditionally to be liable for the full amount,’’ Chupak said. “Now that the defendant has fled, Flavio seeks to be relieved of its contractual obligation.’’

It’s not clear when the Supreme Court will issue a ruling in the case.

Extradition has been a contentious issue in Jamaica. An inquiry commission in Kingston is investigating how government officials handled a US extradition request last year for alleged drug trafficker Christopher “Dudus’’ Coke. When the government launched a hunt for Coke in the slums of West Kingston, it sparked four days of fighting that killed 73 civilians and three security officers. Coke was captured last June and is now jailed in New York.