Bounty hunter trio faces extradition to Mexico
By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Michael Tsai
In an ironic but not entirely unexpected turn, Duane "Dog" Chapman, star of the A&E reality show "Dog the Bounty Hunter," is in federal custody this morning awaiting word on whether he will be brought to Mexican justice.
Chapman, son Leland, and Tim Chapman (no relation) were arrested by U.S. Marshals yesterday on charges of illegal detention and conspiracy stemming from their 2003 capture of Max Factor heir and convicted rapist Andrew Luster in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
Under Mexican law, it is illegal for someone who has not been authorized by the government to arrest another person.
"They want to extradite (Duane Chapman)," said Brook Hart, the Chapmans' attorney. "We have an extradition treaty with Mexico and people get extradited all the time. But usually they're extraditing serious criminals, not someone who assisted in the arresting of a serious criminal.
"It's an unusual case."
At an arraignment hearing yesterday afternoon, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald Johnson argued that the defendants should remain in custody until their extradition hearing, which has yet to be scheduled, explaining that since this is an international case, "there is no constitutional right to bail. There is a presumption against bail."
Hart countered that Duane Chapman's high profile and ties to the community constituted special circumstances under which bail could be considered under the law.
"Duane is an internationally known figure, has lived in Hawai'i since 1989, and is assured to show up (for his hearing) and will check in every day, or several times a day," Hart said. "All he wants is to go home and take care of his family and continue doing three shows a week for A&E."
U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Kurren said he was inclined to grant the Chapmans' release on bail.
"The Chapmans have known about this for a long time. They have strong ties here given their notoriety, and they have a financial stake here," he said. "They are very unlikely to risk all of that by fleeing."
Still, the final decision was postponed for a hearing this afternoon so that a financial report needed to determine bail could be prepared by the defense and reviewed by Kurren and the prosecution. Today's hearing is scheduled for 3 p.m.
Duane Chapman and his fellow defendants remained silent throughout the proceedings, although Chapman did offer a "shaka" sign to supporters in the packed courtroom and once gestured to his wife, Beth, to remain silent after she addressed the court directly during a debate over when Chapman's financial information could be compiled.
Hart said he and the Chapmans had not yet decided whether to fight extradition.
Beth Chapman, who arrived at the hearing flanked by family and a "Dog the Bounty Hunter" film crew, met with reporters after the hearing and thanked the public for its support of the family.
"If we did something wrong, then we will stand there for it," she said. "And if Duane has to return to Mexico to clear up any misunderstanding, then that's what we will do."
Luster had eluded capture for more than five months when Chapman tracked him to Puerto Vallarta and apprehended him. The streetside confrontation was reported to local police, who later arrested the Chapmans and their camera crew on kidnapping charges. The Chapmans were released on bail, but failed to show up at a scheduled hearing on July 15, 2003.
A U.S. warrant for the Chapmans' arrest was signed by a federal judge in Honolulu on Wednesday. Marshals executed the warrant early yesterday, arresting Duane Chapman and Tim Chapman at their Hawai'i Kai residence, and Leland Chapman at his home on Wilhelmina Rise.
Lucas Platt, who produces "Dog the Bounty Hunter," said the latest events shouldn't affect the show, which has been a ratings pillar for A&E since its debut in 2004.
"It probably won't have much impact at all," Platt said. "I believe he's innocent, and if there's been some misunderstanding going on here, they'll take care of it and it'll be resolved and we'll continue on."
Platt said the arrest and possible extradition likely would not keep the show from returning for a fourth season.
"I can't speak for the network since I don't work for the network, but I can say that they were aware that Duane and his crew had gone to Mexico to bring back Andrew Luster before they originally picked up the show," he said. "I'm sure they will support him through this."
Today was to have been the last day of the current shooting block for next season, but it is likely that production will continue — as it did yesterday when camera and sound technicians followed the family throughout the day — as long as the case drags on.
It's been a tumultuous last few months for Chapman. On May 19, a day before Chapman wed his longtime companion Beth, Chapman's 23-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, Barbara, was killed in a car accident in Fairbanks, Alaska.
In August, a San Francisco man, Simaile Lutu, filed suit seeking damages from Chapman, his bond company, and San Francisco police claiming that Chapman and his crew mistakenly apprehended him while going after a bail jumper, and that the incident resulted in two other mistaken-identity confrontations with police.
An emotional Beth Chapman said she is hopeful of a positive resolution to the latest challenge.
"We have our faith in the Lord, and the Lord will bring us through this," she said.
Reach Michael Tsai at email@example.com.