This article was written by David Gurliacci and was originally published on sister news website Darienite.com
Scott Hapgood decided not to go back to Anguilla for a pretrial court hearing, a spokesman for the Darien man said, because authorities on the Caribbean island would not guarantee his safety, because he might be jailed for a long time waiting trial and because the judicial authorities didn’t seem to be treating him fairly.
After discussions with Anguillan officials, it didn’t appear that Hapgood’s safety could be assured on the island, and the decisions about the case didn’t appear to be fair, said a statement issued Monday by Jamie Diaferia, the CEO of Infinite Global, a public relations firm, and a spokesman for the Hapgood family. (Diaferia’s statement is published in full, below.)
Hapgood, vacationing in Anguilla with his family last April, got into a fight with Mitchel, who was taken to a hospital where he soon died. Hapgood said Mitchel came into the Hapgood hotel room to commit a robbery.
Diaferia’s statement provides more details about Hapgood’s concerns about safety and fairness than were previously announced.
Although Hapgood was charged with manslaughter in the death of Kenny Mitchell, a hotel worker who was trying to rob the Hapgoods, Diafera said, “Three independent medical experts have now concluded that the attacker died due to the drugs in his system.”
But those conclusions haven’t stopped the prosecution from pressing the case, Diafera said. “[I]t has become progressively apparent that Scott would not receive a fair trial in Anguilla. During the process, a toxicology report was suppressed, witnesses altered their accounts and submitted new statements that were false, a revised cause of death was ignored, legal counsel was excluded from the hearing, and numerous other actions that suggested that politics are governing Scott’s case rather than the law and the facts.”
Diafera also said racial animus appears to be part of the case:
- “Scott was accused of perpetrating racial violence. In many of the witness statements submitted into evidence by the Crown [prosecutors], Scott was referred to as simply ‘the Caucasian” or the “white man.’”
Diafera didn’t provide further context for how those descriptions of Hapgood were used. Police announcements in Darien, describing what a person is doing or what a witness says the person was doing will sometimes mention the person’s race rather than the person’s name, even when that name is later given. In the announcements, that indicates that the witness (possibly a police officer) didn’t know the person whose actions are being described. Later, the police announcement will say the person was identified and charged.
Anyone describing Hapgood fighting with Mitchel, such as hotel employees who came to the room during or after the struggle, might identify Hapgood as white or Caucasian for that reason. Mitchel might be identified as black for the same reason, although hotel workers would be more likely to know a fellow employee by name.
Diaferia also said Hapgood’s safety is imperiled if he returns to Anguilla: Leading up to the Nov. 11 hearing, Hapgood’s legal team has tried to get “guarantees that he will be protected upon his return to Anguilla and that he would be allowed to return home on bail when the hearing ends. […]Anguillan officials have declined to give any such assurances. Scott has offered to appear at the Nov. 11 hearing by video link, which was also rejected.”
“We understand there will be people in Anguilla who say Scott is running from a trial. That is 100 percent false,” said Hapgood’s international lawyer, Juliya Arbisman, in the statement Diafera issued. “There is nothing Scott wants more than to clear his name and get his life back. But he cannot clear his name if he is dead, or if the legal process by which he is bound is fundamentally biased and unjust.”
Diaferia said he would have nothing further to say about the Hapgood case at this time, other than what was in his prepared statement.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who’s been at the forefront of elected officials’ efforts to support Hapgood, released a statement on Monday that neither supported nor criticized the decision not to show up in court in Anguilla, a territory of the United Kingdom. Instead, Blumenthal indicated in several ways that he was very supportive of the family, including saying that the decision was one for them to make:
“This difficult decision was for the family to make, and only the family could fully assess the personal risks and uncertainties,” Blumenthal said in a statement, according to Marissa Alter, a reporter for News 12 Connecticut.
— Marissa Alter (@MarissaAlter) November 11, 2019
Blumenthal, who recently sent a letter, endorsed by several senators and U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, to the U.S. State Department “to assure Scott Hapgood’s physical safety and fair, transparent legal proceedings,” said discussions have taken place between the State Department and British and Anguilan authorities, although the senator didn’t provide any details about what was discussed.
“I worked with Senate colleagues and the State Department in seeking to assure Scott Hapgood’s physical safety and fair, transparent legal proceedings,” Blumenthal said in the statement. “The State Department had discussions with British and Anguillan authorities. I continue to stand ready to help the Hapgood family in any appropriate way.”
The Extradition Process
If the United Kingdom requests extradition of Hapgood, the request first goes to the State Department, according to this explanation on the Voice of America website:
- The request is then passed on to the Justice Department, which reviews the case to make sure it complies with the treaty in place. If so, a warrant is obtained, the person is arrested and brought before a federal judge or magistrate. After that, it is up to the court to decide if there is a probable cause for the person to be extradited. The case then goes back to the State Department, and the Secretary of State has the final say.
The United States and the United Kingdom have an extradition treaty. According to the website for the U.S. Embassy in London, “For extradition requests from the U.K. to the U.S. the subjects are in most cases extradited within several months.” In recent years, according to the embassy website, no extradition request from the U.K. has been refused by U.S. authorities (although it isn’t certain when that Web page was last updated).
The website also says that the normal process for extraditions between the two countries involves presenting evidence showing that the request meets the standard of evidence in the country where the wanted person is living:
“In fact, in practice, all extradition requests between the U.S. and U.K. must meet the evidentiary standards required in both countries. Each country is also always required to present enough evidence to meet our domestic standards — either “probable cause” or “reasonable suspicion” — before prosecutors can issue an arrest warrant and request an extradition from the other side.”
Local police would normally be contacted and be expected to be on hand to help if an extradition was approved by a U.S. authority and about to be executed in Darien. Hapgood could always show up elsewhere to hand himself over to authorities.
Hapgood would not be considered a fugitive by the United States unless he violated an extradition order approved by a U.S. authority (a federal judge and the U.S. secretary of state). If Hapgood left the country, the United Kingdom could attempt to extradite him from whatever other country he went to, or arrest him if he went to any British territory.
Police Chief: We’re Not Involved
Darien Police Chief Donald Anderson issued a statement on Monday (published in full, below) saying that town police don’t now have anything to do with whether or not Hapgood goes back to Anguilla:
“The Darien Police Department has no direct involvement in these ongoing proceedings […],” Anderson said. “The Darien Police Department, as always, looks to provide an effective public safety response and to ensure that the rights to safety and security, afforded to all residents and guests of the Town of Darien, are protected should our services be required.”
Whether or not Hapgood will be legally bound to return to Anguilla is something the State Department would handle, not town police, Anderson added: “[I]t appears that these ongoing criminal matters will most likely be handled at the United States Department of State level.”
From Jamie Diaferia, CEO of Infinite Global public relations, and a spokesman for the Hapgood family:
Seven months ago, an employee of the Malliouhana Hotel on the British Overseas Territory of Anguilla, who was high on a cocktail of drugs including cocaine and had a pending rape charge, entered Scott Hapgood’s hotel room under false pretenses, attacked Scott and threatened the lives of two of his minor children. In response, Scott defended himself and his children. When the attacker died — in the hospital about an hour after the attack — Scott was charged with manslaughter. Three independent medical experts have now concluded that the attacker died due to the drugs in his system.
Despite the unfairness of the charge continuing, Scott has cooperated with the Anguillan legal process and has returned to the island three times for hearings in an effort to clear his name.
But it has become progressively apparent that Scott would not receive a fair trial in Anguilla. During the process, a toxicology report was suppressed, witnesses altered their accounts and submitted new statements that were false, a revised cause of death was ignored, legal counsel was excluded from the hearing, and numerous other actions that suggested that politics are governing Scott’s case rather than the law and the facts.
An inflammatory and false rhetoric has also grown around this case. Scott was accused of perpetrating racial violence. In many of the witness statements submitted into evidence by the Crown [prosecutors], Scott was referred to as simply “the Caucasian” or the “white man.” These accusations are deeply offensive and wrong. Scott’s race, and Kenny Mitchel’s race, are irrelevant to the facts of what happened.
In the lead up to the Nov. 11 hearing — the final stage of the Preliminary Inquest – Scott’s legal team has worked tirelessly to obtain guarantees that he will be protected upon his return to Anguilla and that he would be allowed to return home on bail when the hearing ends. Despite these efforts, along with those of Senator Blumenthal and a bi-partisan group of other senators, members of Congress and the U.S. State Department, Anguillan officials have declined to give any such assurances. Scott has offered to appear at the Nov. 11 hearing by video link, which was also rejected.
The guarantees of safety are essential for two reasons. First, there is a significant likelihood Scott’s incarceration would be indefinite, as a trial may not happen for many years. Second, there is near certainty the death threats he has received will come to fruition if he were to be held in an Anguillan prison for any length of time.
For these reasons, Scott has not returned to Anguilla.
“We understand there will be people in Anguilla who say Scott is running from a trial. That is 100 percent false. There is nothing Scott wants more than to clear his name and get his life back. But he cannot clear his name if he is dead, or if the legal process by which he is bound is fundamentally biased and unjust,” said his international lawyer, Juliya Arbisman.
Darien Police Announcement
Darien Police Chief Donald Anderson issued this statement on Monday:
The Darien, CT Police Department has been advised that Scott Hapgood, a Darien, CT resident charged with manslaughter on the island of Anguilla, was scheduled to return to the island today, Nov. 11, 2019, for a court appearance.
We have been further advised that Mr. Hapgood, in consultation with his legal advisers, has made the decision to not return to Anguilla at this time amid reported concerns for his personal safety.
The Darien Police Department has no direct involvement in these ongoing proceedings which have attracted national and international media attention during the year. The Darien Police Department, as always, looks to provide an effective public safety response and to ensure that the rights to safety and security, afforded to all residents and guests of the Town of Darien, are protected should our services be required. Our staff is aware of these latest developments in this matter and we will continue to provide reasonable, professional patrol (both general and focused) and effective response to ensure public safety.
Going forward, it appears that these ongoing criminal matters will most likely be handled at the United States Department of State level as it involves international criminal charges and a citizen of the United States and the State of Connecticut.
The Darien, CT Police Department will have no further comment on this matter at this time.