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Jan 20, 2014

The long legal process of Rhett Fuller’s extradition request and release from prison

Rhett Fuller

After fighting extradition and exhausting every legal option at his disposal for more than fifteen years, Rhett Fuller is a free man. Minister of Foreign Affairs Wilfred Elrington decided on Thursday, January sixteenth, that extraditing him to the US for a 1990 murder would be oppressive. That decision means that as long as Fuller remains in Belize, he is free from Uncle Sam’s enormous reach. For the Fuller family, it has been an ordeal which threatened to break them financially and emotionally. This morning Ann Marie Fuller and attorney Eamon Courtenay were guests of OYE, and shared their unique perspectives on what has been a long, difficult road. Mike Rudon has the story.

FOR VIDEO CLICK HERE: Inside look on Rhett Fuller’s Extradition

Mike Rudon, Reporting

When Rhett Fuller walked out of Withfield Towers without shackles or Police escort, it symbolized a freedom he has not enjoyed since 1998. That’s how long the US has been requesting his extradition and how long he has been fighting to remain at home. His legal battles have been fought in every court in Belize, and have gone as far as the Privy Court.

 

Eamon Courtenay, Attorney for Rhett Fuller

Eamon Courtenay

“The Privy Council made a landmark decision because they finally said that what we were saying is correct; that where we had issues of abuse of process, due process, bad faith, etc., the minister can’t determine those legal issues. It is for the court. They held that, but then they went on to say but we have looked at the facts of this case and we see that there is no abuse, there is no bad faith, etc. So we came back to Belize now, legal fight exhausted…go to the minister. We made representations to the minister, but the minister said, “No, Rhett must go.” We challenged that decision in court to say that he was wrong. Mister Justice Awich said no the minister was correct. We appealed. The Court of Appeal decided all the grounds that we argued were wrong except one; that the minister did not consider oppression. How did this request at this stage affect Rhett’s family? And so they sent it back to the minister.”

 

And the Minister, says Courtenay, made the right decision.

 

Eamon Courtenay

“In the particular case of Rhett, as you know twenty-four years had passed since this incident took place; sixteen years since the request had been made. And what the minister determined when you look at the particular facts of this case, having regard to Rhett’s family, having regard to Rhett’s daughter who is autistic, having regard to the effect on his business, the amount of time he had spent in prison, etc. And without looking at who is to blame—whether it is the U.S., whether it is Belizean authorities, whether it is Rhett—so much time has passed for him now to send Rhett would shatter the family even further, more pain than they had already had to endure and he exercised his discretion and said in this particular case, I think enough is enough.”

 

Anne Marie Fuller

But it wasn’t a decision that could easily have been foretold. For Fuller’s wife Anne-Marie, the light at what has been the end of a long, dark tunnel is overwhelming, and for being able to get to this point, she thanks those who stood by here.

 

Anne Marie Fuller, Rhett’s Wife

“I had a lot of family support. That love and support really, really just carries you because it is a soft place to land. And I really couldn’t have done it without my aunt and uncle because they have been such a pillar of support for me and my children and they helped me with the little day to day things which can really wear you down. With the home work and dropping the kids off at school so I can get ready and go to work and they’ve given us a place to stay because we had lost our home. They’ve just been so wonderful to us and that’s how you get through things. You always need somebody to help; no man is an island.”

 

Fuller’s three children have suffered from his incarceration, and have been told the truth about what their father has done and where he has been. In the end they very likely provided the weight which swayed the scales of justice in his favor.

 

Anne Marie Fuller

“At first, because we had hoped that it wouldn’t drag on—this last leg of the race; this last two and a half years—at first, we didn’t want to tell them and I think it took about ten months before I actually sat them down because I was trying to actually shelter them and protect them. But at the end of the day, I thought about it, I asked for advice from professionals and it boiled down to one thing, the truth. And I felt that they were old enough to know the truth.”

 

Eamon Courtenay

“On the twentieth of December when we went to minister to make the final oral presentation, she took the three children. And when we arrived at his office, I was stunt. This was a formal proceeding, how can we take in these kids? And then I just saw the children and I realized this is a good move. At the very end of the proceeding, when I had finished saying everything I said, the minister turned around and just looked at the children, looked at Anne for about forty-five seconds; it was just complete silence in the room. And then he turned to me and said thank you very much, you will hear from me shortly. And I think that that personal dimension weighed heavily on his mind in coming to that decision.”

 

The long ordeal has ended, and the family must now rebuild the pieces. It won’t be easy, but at least they have gotten the opportunity to try.

 

Anne Marie Fuller

“This meant that we get a chance to rebuild our lives and we just have a chance now. Our kids have a chance, Gabriela has a chance to grow up and be the best that she can be and basically that is what it’s mostly about. That opportunity has now been opened to us and we are just so grateful for it.”

 

Fuller says now that they have shaken off the extradition, they will try however possible to clear Rhett’s name in the US. For now, though, perhaps it is better that they do so long distance. Mike Rudon for News Five.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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4 Responses for “The long legal process of Rhett Fuller’s extradition request and release from prison”

  1. David says:

    While I enjoyed the interview on CH5 about Mr. Rhett Fuller and his wife; I was shocked to hear his wife gave Mr. Courtney (who worked all these years for Free) a slap in the face when she said that — they will be hiring an American lawyer to clear Mr. Fuller’s name, so that they would be free to travel (possible to the U.S.A. I think).

  2. Al Rich says:

    If Rhett is indeed guilty of this crime, I hope the individual that was killed did not leave any children behind who will forever have to live with their father’s death.

    His wife believed that their children played a part in him not being extradited, so all you have to do to not get extradited by Belize is to have children. This is more than that, there are some big favors that was handed out, this is my belief.

  3. cg says:

    free his name after 15 years of extradition? Mr. Fuller, you know what you did sir, what you were involved in, and who you were with that day….you may not have pull the trigger young sir, but many of us who are very familiar with all the familiies involved who did not have such luck as yourself, know where the guilt lies. … but God is the Supreme Judge and Jury. All the best for his family!

  4. belize gal says:

    What happen to the 2 Sewell brothers that are pending extradition hearing. Will they get off too since they seem to have children in Belizee?

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