WASHINGTON, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–March 13, 2012. U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) yesterday introduced legislation to devote additional federal resources to investigating, apprehending, extraditing and prosecuting fugitives suspected of committing serious crimes. Durbin’s Bringing Fugitives to Justice Act would enhance resources for fugitive apprehension efforts by directing appearance and bail bonds that are forfeited in federal criminal cases to a Fugitive Extradition and Apprehension Trust Fund. The bill is the most recent action taken by Durbin in response to a Chicago Tribune investigative series that raised concerns about the fugitive apprehension process.
“This is a common sense bill designed to help chip away at one of the problems identified by the Chicago Tribune series and the summit I held several weeks ago – insufficient resources for fugitive apprehension. It makes sense that criminal bonds forfeited by fugitives should be used to help bring fugitives to justice. The victims of fugitive crimes deserve to know that when a fugitive flees our country, the pursuit of justice will not stop,” said Durbin.
Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said her office has been working in partnership with federal agencies and will be participating in joint training efforts with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Department of Justice. She said her office has also has stepped up efforts to review pending fugitive cases to ensure that up-to-date information is available at all times throughout the extradition process and that it is shared with all agencies involved.
“The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office remains committed to continuing this important work and we will be with our law enforcement partners every step of the way as we work to improve the extradition process of international fugitives,” Alvarez said.
The Bringing Fugitives to Justice Act would enhance the Task Force’s efforts by modifying allocations to the Crime Victims Fund to allow the Attorney General to use bond forfeiture funds for U.S. Marshals’, U.S. Attorneys’ and the Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs’ fugitive investigations, apprehensions, extraditions, and prosecutions. Durbin’s hope is that the federal bill dedicating forfeited bonds in federal criminal cases to fugitive apprehension efforts will serve as a model for state and local jurisdictions to follow. It will also help victims in these fugitive cases who often suffer from both the original crime and the sense that their perpetrators have been allowed to escape with impunity.
Durbin also announced additional progress stemming from the summit he convened on January 12, 2012:
- Department of Justice Trainings to Begin Tomorrow: At the January summit, the Department of Justice pledged to hold trainings for Illinois law enforcement on procedures in fugitive investigations and cases. The first of these trainings will take place this week – Tuesday March 13th and Wednesday March 14th – for Chicago-area and Illinois agencies.
- U.S. Marshals Have Been Designated as Primary Point of Contact: Because Illinois law enforcement agencies have raised concerns about whether the U.S. Marshals or the Federal Bureau of Investigation should be the first federal point of contact, the Department of Justice recently designated the U.S. Marshals as the first point of contact in Illinois. This will help local agencies share information more promptly when a fugitive case arises.
- Meeting with Mexican Ambassador: Durbin met with Mexican Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan on February 29 to discuss revisiting the US-Mexico extradition treaty to address certain barriers to extradition. Some serious crimes in the U.S., such as reckless homicide, are not extraditable offenses under the treaty. Differences in the two countries’ statutes of limitations can also be a barrier. Durbin also urged the Ambassador to make sure the cases highlighted by the Tribune were being pursued to the best of Mexico’s ability.
Based on the Chicago Tribune reporters’ findings, Durbin called for a summit of key officials to discuss an action plan to improve the system and bring these dangerous fugitives to justice. In a November 7, 2011 letter to the Department of Justice, the Illinois Attorney General’s office, several Cook County officials and various other state and local officials, Durbin wrote: “The Tribune has identified more than 60 suspects charged with crimes such as murder, rape, and other violent offenses who have fled to Mexico, and data from the U.S. Department of Justice reveal that 129 suspects have fled Illinois across the border and remain at large. These numbers are unacceptably high. Because I am certain that each of you share this concern, I request that your agencies promptly provide an action plan detailing steps they will take to respond to this problem.”
In a November 8, 2011 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on oversight of the Department of Justice, Durbin questioned U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder about the Chicago Tribune investigation. Holder agreed that the Department of Justice needs to work with state and local law enforcement agencies to resolve communication problems that have resulted in difficulty apprehending international fugitives wanted for committing serious crimes in Illinois.
In a November 29, 2011 letter to Durbin, Holder wrote that he instructed federal authorities in Illinois to begin working with federal and international experts in Washington: “At my direction, these federal, state and local authorities will set about identifying any gaps in communication on fugitive issues, and will formulate a plan of action that will include effective information sharing, education and training in the specialized areas of international fugitive apprehension and extradition. I am confident that by assembling the local, national, and international experts in this area we collectively can formulate a unified approach designed to bring violent fugitives back to face justice in Illinois.”