The Zhenli Ye Gon case just won't go away fast enough for the Justice Department.
A federal magistrate judge in Washington today ruled against the department in the extradition case against Ye Gon, who is wanted in Mexico on charges that include organized crime and drug violations. A judge in August dismissed the drug trafficking conspiracy charge against Ye Gon with prejudice.
Ye Gon’s extradition hearing had been scheduled for Thursday before Magistrate Judge John Facciola of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Ye Gon’s lawyers yesterday asked to have the hearing postponed, and the judge agreed today—over the objection of the Justice Department.
Lawyers for Ye Gon say they need more time to investigate, among other things, how the evidentiary issues that doomed the government’s criminal prosecution affect the extradition proceedings.
The lawyers, Manuel Retureta and A. Eduardo Balarezo, also want to investigate how the resignation of Mexico Attorney General Medina Mora and the departure of two other supervisory prosecutors may undercut a probable cause finding or otherwise be admissible at the extradition hearing.
The government, Balarezo said, “simple wants this court to ignore the very real manner in which the Mexican law enforcement officers directly associated with this case have been compromised by corruption.” A high-ranking prosecutor is accused in Mexico of aiding drug traffickers, Balarezo said in court papers.
“Of emerging concern is the government’s zeal to rush this hearing to conclusion, ignoring the obvious problems with the evidence and the suspect officials presenting evidence to the United States,” Ye Gon’s lawyers wrote in a court filing today.
Justice lawyers said in response that Ye Gon’s attorneys haven’t shown any connection between corrupt prosecutors in Mexico and the Ye Gon case.
“At most, his allegations may be construed as challenges to the fairness of the Mexican justice system, but such allegations should be addressed by the Secretary of State, not this Court,” Valinda Jones, senior trial attorney in the department’s Office of International Affairs, said in response.
Fugitives do not have a right to discovery in extradition proceedings, Jones said in court papers. The defense lawyers’ discovery request, she said, is “nebulous.” The Justice Department said the extradition hearing should not be continued any longer. Ye Gon has been detained since his arrest in suburban Maryland in July 2007.
In dismissing the government’s case against Ye Gon, Judge Emmet Sullivan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia did not rule on whether prosecutors adhered to their obligations to turn over favorable evidence to the defense lawyers.
Tomorrow, Facciola is scheduled to meet with Ye Gon’s lawyers and the Justice Department team. He wants to discuss the issues raised in the court papers. For now, a ruling on whether Ye Gon will be sent to Mexico is on hold.