A former United States resident, who fled that country before he was convicted and sentenced for assaulting a corner store owner almost two decades ago, has lost his extradition challenge.
In a judgement delivered, late last week, High Court Judge Robin Mohammed dismissed a habeas corpus writ in which Kim Maharaj was seeking to avoid being extradited to New York to serve his sentence.
According to evidence in the case, Maharaj was charged for assaulting the store owner by punching him in his face while two men held him down on September 7, 1998.
Maharaj attended most of his trial but absconded before the jury delivered the verdict in the Queens County Supreme Court on September 28, 2000.
Four months later, Maharaj was sentenced to 12 years in prison for second-degree assault and seven years for second-degree gang-assault. The sentences were ordered to be served concurrently and he was ordered to submit to five years mandatory post-release supervision.
Maharaj allegedly spent one month hiding at his parents home in Ozone Park, Queens, before fleeing to Trinidad.
US authorities initiated extradition proceedings through the Office of the Attorney General after Maharaj, who had been residing in Aranguez since then, was arrested for drunk driving in 2016 and was traced through Interpol.
Before his arrest, Maharaj lived with his extended family in Aranguez and was able to open a vehicle suspension repair business. He got married in 2007 and had a son.
In October 2018, Maharaj was committed for extradition by Chief Magistrate Maria Busby-Earle-Caddle.
In his lawsuit before Mohammed, Maharaj claimed it would be oppressive to extradite him after almost 20 years and complained about delays in his extradition proceedings.
His claims were rejected by Mohammed, who said, “The fugitive cannot pray in aid what would not have happened but for the additional passage of time for which he himself is culpable.”
Maharaj, who claimed that he pretended that his legal woes in the US “never happened,” also called on Mohammed to consider that he had been diagnosed with transverse myelitis, an auto-immune disease that affects the spinal cord and causes severe pain as well as bladder and bowel issues.
He claimed his extradition would affect his son’s life negatively as his wife also has health issues.
Mohammed also dismissed those claims as he pointed out that since returning to T&T, Maharaj had been charged with criminal offences ten times, including for marijuana possession, possession of an offensive weapon, resisting arrest and using obscene language.
“The applicant’s conduct, in the mind of any right-thinking person in society, cannot be of any positive influence in the child’s upbringing. In fact, it is widely acknowledged that, in most instances, young children follow the footsteps and behaviour of their parents, more particularly their father,” Mohammed said.
He noted that Maharaj’s wife and son can access several social welfare programmes as they wait for him to serve his sentence and return.
Mohammed’s decision in the case does not mean that Maharaj is to be immediately extradited as he was granted a 14-day stay to allow him to appeal.
Maharaj was represented by Mario Merritt and Karunaa Bisramsingh, while Ravi Rajcoomar, Graeme McClean, and Varuna Chattoo represented the AG’s Office.