New York: The father-and-son duo accused of helping former Nissan Motor Co. chief executive officer Carlos Ghosn flee criminal charges in Japan must remain in custody while they fight extradition after two U.S. judges denied them bail.
Former Green Beret Michael Taylor and his son Peter were arrested in Massachusetts in May at the request of the Japanese government. U.S. prosecutors argued that the Taylors should stay in custody, pointing out that the two allegedly helped carry out one of the "most brazen and well-orchestrated escape acts in recent history."
U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani in Boston on Thursday denied an emergency petition that the Taylors filed this week requesting immediate release in part because of the spread of the coronavirus in the jail where they are being held. She said there is a presumption against bail in extradition cases and that the Taylors had not shown they were likely to succeed in ultimately blocking the extradition request from Japan.
In addition, U.S. Magistrate Judge Donald Cabell, who is overseeing the extradition case, denied the Taylors bail in a separate order on Friday, explaining that he considered them flight risks. In his ruling, Cabell cited their apparent skill at executing high-stakes escapes and their family connections to Lebanon.
"At a minimum," the magistrate wrote, "the facts reflect a greater than passing experience in covert international planning."
Paul Kelly, a lawyer for the Taylors, said he disagreed with the judge's conclusions and that the men would continue fighting Japan's extradition request.
"These two U.S. citizens, one a decorated Special Forces veteran, and the other an impressive young man with no criminal history, should not be held in custody during a pandemic while these issues are being litigated," Kelly said.
Ghosn fled Japan in December as he was out on bail awaiting trial on charges of financial misconduct. Prosecutors in the U.S. and Japan say that the Taylors helped engineer that spectacular escape, concealing him in a large box for audio equipment and putting him on a charter flight to Turkey, where he switched planes and flew to Lebanon.
Japan responded to the escape by issuing arrest warrants for the former executive and others suspected of aiding him, including the Taylors.
In court filings, the Taylors have argued that the warrants don't justify extradition because helping someone "jump bail" isn't a crime under the Japanese penal code. A further charge that the escape violated Japanese immigration laws is only punishable as a misdemeanor and thus not subject to extradition, the Taylors said.
But the U.S. government rejected that legal argument and called the Taylors, who have been held at Norfolk County Correctional Facility outside Boston since their arrest, "exceptionally high" flight risks.
"Michael Taylor is not just capable of fleeing while on bond," prosecutors wrote in a filing in May. "He is an expert in the subject."
At a bail hearing in June, lawyers for the Taylors noted that both men voluntarily returned to the U.S. from Lebanon this spring, even after Japan issued its arrest warrants. If the Taylors had wanted to circumvent the judicial process, the lawyers said, they could simply have stayed in Lebanon, which does not have an extradition agreement with Japan. "There is no chance that these guys flee," Kelly, the Taylors' lawyer, said at the hearing.