- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 14, 2006

The latest example of Washington’s disturbing tendency to do Mexico’s bidding concerns the popular bounty hunter Duane “Dog” Chapman, whom U.S. marshals arrested last month. Mr. Chapman’s crime? In June 2003, he apprehended Andrew Luster in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where the convicted rapist had fled some five months earlier. Because of Mr. Chapman, Luster is now serving his 124-year sentence in California. We think this makes Mr. Chapman a hero; but the Mexican government says he’s a criminal.

Bounty hunting is illegal in Mexico. So, when Mr. Chapman brought Luster into custody in Mexico he too was detained. But after posting bond, Mr. Chapman returned to Hawaii, where he’s been ever since. The matter seemed to be dropped. Now, three years later, Mexico wants him back to face charges and the U.S. government appears ready to cooperate.

It shouldn’t. First, it is highly doubtful that the Mexican authorities were unaware of Luster’s presence in one of the most popular cities for American tourists. For five months, they let Luster be, even as U.S. federal agents were out looking for him. At the very least the Mexican government made no effort to help find him (which is typical). For this reason alone the Bush administration should not feel the need to yield to Mexico’s demands regarding Mr. Chapman.

Consider too that after Mr. Chapman brought Luster down himself, the police found more of the date-rape drug he had used on his victims in this country. The timing of Mexico’s extradition demands is also curious. Mr. Chapman has been living quite freely in Hawaii doing what he does best, which is hunting down fugitives. He even has a popular reality television series that follows him as he tracks his targets. In other words, it’s not as if Mr. Chapman has been hiding from both Mexican and U.S. agents. Then, weeks before the statute of limitations runs out on trying Mr. Chapman, Mexico suddenly says it wants him back. The strange thing is that Mr. Chapman was working with U.S. agents when he caught Luster. Even the Mexican judge that initially tried him dismissed the charges.

Fortunately, some members of Congress led by Rep. Tom Tancredo have come to Mr. Chapman’s defense. In a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, 29 members of Congress urged her to deny Mexico’s extradition request. “Why is the Department pursuing this case when Mr. Chapman was in communications and cooperating with U.S. and Mexican authorities before and throughout the entire period he was pursuing Mr. Luster?” the letter wonders. “It makes no sense.”

No, it doesn’t. Out of fairness and justice, the Bush administration must ensure that Mr. Chapman is not sent back to Mexico. Whatever arrangement the State Department in its misguided wisdom worked out with Mexico, it’s not more important than saving an innocent man’s freedom. It’s time for Miss Rice and the Bush administration to do the right thing and inform Mexico that under no circumstance will Mr. Chapman be sent there.

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