Thursday, June 26, 2003

Judge frees 2, but
‘Dog’ must stand trial

He says the evidence against
the Hawaii bounty hunter is
strong enough for charges

PUERTO VALLARTA, Mexico >> A judge ruled today that there was enough evidence to order Duane "Dog" Chapman of Honolulu, his brother and his son to stand trial on criminal charges for capturing the heir to the Max Factor cosmetics fortune.

Judge Jose de Jesus Pineda freed two Americans, producer Jeff Sells and actor Boris Krutonog, but found that the Chapmans should be charged with criminal association and deprivation of liberty -- similar to kidnapping without requesting a ransom.

Chapman, a 50-year-old, Hawaii-based bounty hunter, his brother Timothy and his son Leland were arrested along with Shells and Krutonog on June 18, about two hours after the group captured convicted rapist Andrew Luster near a taco stand in this popular Pacific resort city.

Prosecutors maintain that Luster's dramatic capture violated Mexican sovereignty and claim that the Americans should have gone to police instead of trying to capture Luster themselves.

The Chapmans each could face up to eight years in prison if convicted on both counts.

"The evidence justifies that they remain in prison on charges that they committed these crimes," Pineda said in an interview minutes before he made the ruling. He added that the same evidence mandated that he drop all charges against Shells and Krutonog.

The Americans were released from prison after posting a bail of $1,430 each last week, but were ordered to remain in Puerto Vallarta. The fate of the Chapmans was unclear immediately after the ruling because the case will now be handed over to a judge in Guadalajara, Mexico's second-largest city, about 215 miles from Puerto Vallarta.

Before coming to Mexico, Duane Chapman told reporters he hoped to reap a reward from the million-dollar bail that Luster forfeited by fleeing his trial in Los Angeles. Bounty hunters have no special privileges in Mexico.

Last week, authorities expelled Luster to the United States, where he has begun serving a 124-year prison sentence for drugging and raping three women. Luster, 39, fled to Mexico and spent nearly six months on the run after jumping bail.

Three women who say they were sexually assaulted by Luster have filed civil suits against him.


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