Ex-Peruvian President to Remain Jailed Pending Extradition in Bribery Case

Alejandro Toledo, then the president of Peru, speaks during the session “The Challenge for Latin America” at the ‘Annual Meeting 2003’ of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. (World Economic Forum / Daniel Ammann)

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A former Peruvian president will remain in jail pending resolution of his extradition case, a federal judge ruled Thursday, despite a psychiatrist’s warning that his mental state is deteriorating as he stays locked in solitary confinement.

“You will be morally responsible for his death,” former Peruvian president Alejandro Toledo Manrique’s wife, Eliane Karp, shouted after the judge announced his decision. She was forcibly removed from the courtroom.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Hixson had asked federal prosecutors to offer alternatives to solitary confinement for the former head of state, who is wanted in Peru on charges of taking $20 million in bribes from a Brazilian construction company.

U.S. Justice Department lawyer Elise LaPunzina said the federal government has no control over the conditions of confinement because only officials at Alameda County’s Santa Rita Jail, contracted to detain federal defendants, can make that decision.

The government maintains Toledo is “partly responsible” for his solitary confinement because he asked to be placed in protective custody, a claim Toledo’s lawyer disputes. The judge refused to entertain debate on that issue, insisting that no reasonable jail would house such a high-profile defendant with the general population.

“Regardless of who asked, I don’t care,” Hixson said. “That would be an unreasonable way to run a jail.”

LaPunzia said Toledo could be transferred to a maximum separation unit with other inmates subject to extra protection and separated from the general population, but she said only the jail can make that call.

Dr. David Schatz, a psychiatrist, said he has noticed “a marked decline in Dr. Toledo’s mood and the onset of depression,” according to a declaration filed Wednesday.

Toledo’s public defender Graham Archer noted that Amnesty International considers solitary confinement a form of torture, and that Santa Rita Jail has been the subject of multiple class actions over alleged mistreatment of inmates.

He said the government’s concerns about “diplomatic embarrassment” in the event Toledo absconds are outweighed by the international disgrace of holding a former head of state in torture-like conditions.

“I think that is far more embarrassing to the United States,” Archer said.

Archer, who called the charges against his client “politically motivated,” also attacked the government’s contention that Toledo presents a flight risk. Toledo knew of Peru’s extradition request since February 2017 but never tried to flee the United States, Archer said.

Federal prosecutors cited Toledo’s attempt to renew his passport in June and his decision to get a new California Real ID, which allows state residents to travel on planes without a passport, as evidence of a desire to flee.

Archer also implored the judge to consider the eight people who risked $1 million in collateral to post bond for Toledo. Those eight people reside in Washington state, Arizona, New Jersey and California. Most of them are lifelong friends, some of whom put their entire financial futures on the line, Archer said.

“For them to put their professional name and reputation on the line, that he would tarnish his lifelong friendships to leave,” Archer explained.

LaPuniza countered the bond proposal falls short because Toledo and his wife put none of their own money on the line. Toledo qualified for a free public defender based on his finances, but prosecutors say he has access to money and property through intermediaries.

“They have nothing to lose,” LaPuniza said. “They have every reason to flee.”

Archer recommended the judge place Toledo on home detention with an ankle monitor, noting pretrial staff could receive immediate cellphone text alerts if Toledo tried to leave his Menlo Park home.

The public defender added that two people who agreed to post bond would lose their homes if Toledo chose to flee.

That argument failed to convince the judge.

“Peru doesn’t want a house in Washington,” Hixson said. “They want Dr. Toledo.”

Hixson concluded that the ex-Peruvian president poses a flight risk and denied bond, prompting an outburst by Toledo’s wife.

“They’re killing him,” Karp yelled, before a court security officer grabbed her wrist and pulled her across an aisle of court benches. She fell on the ground but quickly got up and was allowed to leave the building peacefully without further incident.

A status conference is scheduled for Oct. 17.

 

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