Judge Troubled by Solitary Confinement of Ex-Peruvian President

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) – Lamenting a “stark choice” of keeping a former Peruvian president in solitary confinement or releasing him from jail, a federal judge in San Francisco asked federal prosecutors Thursday to look for alternatives.

“I’m faced with a stark choice of administrative separation, effectively solitary confinement, for what could be a number of years. The alternative could be release,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Hixson said during a bond hearing in the extradition case of Alejandro Toledo Manrique.

Accused of taking $20 million in bribes from a Brazilian construction company, Toledo was arrested in July by U.S. marshals after the Peruvian government requested his extradition. Toledo led Peru’s government from 2001 to 2006.

Representing Toledo, federal public defender Graham Archer said his client has been stuck in a solitary cell at Alameda County’s Santa Rita Jail for the last six weeks because the facility cannot guarantee his safety in the general population.

Hixson said he understands why the jail chose not to house Toledo with other inmates, but that he would prefer the government find other options.

“The situation he’s in now is not a good one, and it’s one that I would ordinarily look for ways to avoid,” Hixson said.

In court briefs, Toledo’s lawyer attacked the government’s arguments for keeping the former Peruvian leader in jail pending resolution of his extradition case. The defense says Toledo is not a flight risk because he has known about the request for extradition since February 2017, yet he never fled the U.S.

The defense further argues that Toledo’s “finances have deteriorated significantly” since Peru issued a warrant for his arrest, and that he has strong ties to the Bay Area, where he studied at the University of San Francisco and served as a visiting professor at Stanford University.

Federal prosecutors say Toledo has access to money and the ability to flee since he was found with $40,000 in cash when he was arrested, money he claims belonged to his wife. Prosecutors also say Toledo has family land in Peru worth millions of dollars, that he pays over $6,300 a month to rent a Menlo Park residence, that he drives a 2016 Lexus and 2010 Toyota, and that he took frequent trips to Washington D.C. They also cite his attempt to renew a Peruvian passport in June as evidence of his desire to flee.

The judge delayed ruling on Toledo’s request for release on bond, saying he wants to first hear from the government on possible alternatives to solitary confinement.

Also on Thursday, Hixson found Toledo eligible for representation by a public defender based on a review of his finances.

Another bond hearing is scheduled for Sept. 12.

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