(CN) – A possible member of the Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel who was arrested in the United States cannot pursue habeas claims in Washington and must refile in Virginia, a federal judge ruled, even though the neighboring commonwealth had originally refused jurisdiction.
Chinese-born Zhenli Ye Gon is a Mexican businessman and alleged member of the Sinaloa Cartel, the most powerful drug cartel in Mexico. He denies this allegation.
Ye Gon was the legal representative of Unimed Pharm Chem México, which was authorized by the Mexican government to import thousands of metric tons of pseudoephedrine and ephedrine products into Mexico from 2002 to 2004.
This authorization ended in early 2005, but Ye Gon allegedly continued to import these chemicals over the next two years for drug-trafficking purposes. In a 2007 raid on Ye Gon’s Mexico City residence, the police found over $207 million in cash as well as 18 million pesos.
Ye Gon was arrested in a Wheaton, Md., restaurant in July 2007 and charged with conspiracy to aid and abet the importation of methamphetamine into the United States.
This case was dismissed two years later, but Ye Gon is still in prison pending a decision on whether Mexico can extradite him to face charges there.
In February 2011, Ye Gon filed a habeas petition, challenging his confinement at the Central Virginia Regional Jail, but the Western District of Virginia transferred the case to the District of Columbia.
U.S. District Judge Amy Jackson ruled last week, however, that the District of Columbia did not have jurisdiction to rule on Ye Gon’s petition.
Although “the government acknowledges that the U.S. Marshal for the District of Columbia retains administrative responsibility for the petitioner,” Jackson said that “the proper respondent in this case is the warden of the Virginia jail because he is the petitioner’s immediate physical custodian.”
“In habeas challenges to present physical confinement, the district of confinement is synonymous with the district court that has territorial jurisdiction over the proper respondent,” the ruling states, citing the Supreme Court’s decision in Rumsfeld v. Padilla (italics in original).
“This court certainly does not take the step of returning the case lightly,” Jackson wrote.