Drug Case Behind ‘Orange’ Series Kept Open

     CHICAGO (CN) – The alleged drug kingpin featured in “Orange Is the New Black” cannot dismiss the 16-year-old federal indictment against him, although the U.S. has not sought to extradite him from Nigeria, the 7th Circuit ruled Monday.
     Piper Kerman, the writer behind the hit Netflix show “Orange is the New Black,” based the drama on her stint in federal prison for smuggling heroin.
     A central figure in Kerman’s story is the Nigerian drug kingpin who moved millions of dollars worth of heroin through O’Hare International Airport during the 1990s.
     This man, Buruji Kashamu, is still at large after beating an attempt by the United States to extradite him from the Britain. He claims prosecutors have mistaken him for his now-deceased brother who was the real mastermind of the drug ring.
     In Nigeria, Kashamu is a prominent businessman and politician with the ruling party. The U.S. has not attempted to extradite him from his home county, but there is an open federal indictment against Kashamu in Chicago that keeps him from traveling without facing possible extradition.
     Via his lawyers, Kashamu petitioned the 7th Circuit for mandamus, seeking to dismiss the indictment against him.
     The Chicago-based federal appeals court found the Justice Department’s likelihood of extraditing Kashamu slim.
     “The proof of the pudding is in the eating: The government has not tried to extradite Kashamu from Nigeria and for all we know may be feigning ‘optimism’ in order to undermine Kashamu’s claim that the threat of extradition is a Sword of Damocles disrupting his life without our government’s having to undergo the expense and uncertainty of seeking extradition of a foreign big shot exonerated (though only partly) by the judiciary of our British ally,” Judge Richard Posner wrote for the three-judge panel (parentheses in original).
     The court said the best way for Kashamu to relieve the threat hanging over his head, and the damage to his reputation was within his power: present himself in Chicago for trial.
     “[Kashamu] was indicted 16 years ago,” Posner wrote. “At any time during this long interval he had only to show up in the federal district court in Chicago to obtain a determination of his guilt or innocence. … When a defendant flees the country to escape justice, the inference is that he didn’t want a speedy trial – he wanted no trial. And if he doesn’t want a speedy trial, he can’t complain that the judiciary didn’t give him one.”
     One of Kashamu’s co-defendants was sentenced to 10 years in prison, and several other people involved, such as Kerman, served prison time. Kashamu could face an even longer sentence if he was indeed the ringleader of the conspiracy.
     “If he wants to fight the charges, he has only to fly from Lagos to Chicago; there are loads of reasonably priced flights,” Posner said, citing Priceline.com.
     “How then can he argue with a straight face that the failure of the United States to extradite him entitles him to dismissal of the charges? He can’t; and the petition for a writ of mandamus is therefore denied.”

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