Prisoner in Thailand says U.S. didn’t try him fast enough

September 12, 2011

A federal judge will consider an Australian national’s request to have his drug trafficking charges dropped because it’s been nine years since he was charged, according to court records.

However, U.S. prosecutors say in filings it’s defendant Mitchell Blake’s own fault his speedy trial rights weren’t met because he was serving a Thai prison sentence after being convicted in that country in the 1990s on drug charges.

Blake, who also goes by Martin Garnett, and two Thai nationals were charged in 2002 with shipping heroin from Thailand to Northwest Indiana.

According to court records, Blake ran an elaborate drug-dealing scheme from his Thai prison cell and shipped three pounds of heroin to an undercover DEA agent.

When the U.S. government filed charges, Thailand said they would extradite but not until he had finished serving his prison sentence, which was originally supposed to last until 2020.

However, Blake was given a royal pardon last year and finally extradited to the United States this spring.

Blake says in court filings he had requested to be tried anyway in 2005 but the court denied his request.

Waiting nine years after the charges were filed to try him is “presumptively prejudicial and violative of the defendant’s right to a speedy trial and other due process protections,” the filing says.

He also argues the government’s one request for his extradition was not the asserted effort required by law.

U.S. prosecutors replied in their own filings that they agree the delay is prejudicial but the delay was Blake’s fault, not theirs. “…It was the defendant’s actions (his prior violation of Thai law and subsequent incarceration in a Thai prison), not the government’s inaction that resulted in the delay of his extradition,” the government’s filing says.

Government attorneys also dispute that Blake asked for a hearing in 2005, saying he actually requested the charges be dropped, not to be tried.

The two sides held a hearing Monday over the request, and U.S. District Judge Robert Miller Jr. said he would take it under advisement, according to records.

Source: Post Tribune

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