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Carpenter's Extradition Called Imminent : Crime: Federal authorities hope to return former senator--who fled sentencing on corruption charges--from Costa Rica by Friday. He is seeking a delay for cancer surgery.

November 17, 1994|PAUL JACOBS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SACRAMENTO — Ex-state Sen. Paul Carpenter, who fled to Costa Rica after his conviction on political corruption charges, has apparently exhausted his legal appeals and could be extradited to California by the end of the week, federal authorities said Wednesday.

However, Carpenter, who is suffering from advanced prostate cancer, has asked the Costa Rican courts for a delay in his extradition, saying that he requires emergency surgery for his condition.

The U.S. Marshal's office was preparing to pick up the former Democratic legislator Wednesday, but because of the latest legal and medical complications held off sending marshals to the Costa Rican capital of San Jose, where Carpenter has been jailed since April.

"I'm not aware of any medical emergency," Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Mike Nelson said. "I know that he wants to have an operation down there . . . to prevent the spread of the cancer. I don't know if the courts will allow that to happen. If it does happen, it would probably mean a delay."

Earlier this week, U.S. Atty. Charles J. Stevens expressed confidence that Carpenter would finally be returned to the United States to face sentencing.

Officials in Costa Rica have "basically told us that this thing is over, that there is no further appeal for Carpenter," said Stevens, who was hoping that Carpenter would be returned to the United States by Friday.

Stevens emphasized that the U.S. government would assure Carpenter of proper medical attention for his cancer.

"No one disputes the fact that he has prostate cancer at this stage and probably needs additional medical attention when he returns to the U.S.," Stevens said, adding that the U.S. prison system could provide him with better medical treatment than he has been receiving in Costa Rica.

Carpenter's former lawyer, Charles F. Bloodgood, confirmed that the onetime California politician had exhausted his appeals in the Costa Rican courts but was asking for a delay so that he could have surgery to treat his condition.

Over the past several months, Carpenter's health has been precarious. He was hospitalized for six weeks when he underwent surgery to remove a benign tumor blocking his colon, Bloodgood said. Initially, Costa Rican authorities insisted that Carpenter be handcuffed to his hospital bed. Eventually the local courts ordered him unshackled, ruling that handcuffing was cruel and unusual punishment.

The court awarded the fugitive political figure damages for the treatment, but Carpenter refused the money, Bloodgood said.

Carpenter was first convicted on corruption charges in 1990 and was sentenced to 12 years in prison for extorting campaign contributions from those seeking help with legislation, including an undercover FBI agent who was part of an elaborate sting operation.

That conviction was overturned because of faulty jury instructions. However, Carpenter, a former member of the state Board of Equalization, was indicted and convicted on separate criminal charges in 1993, along with Capitol lobbyist Clayton R. Jackson.

Before he could be sentenced in February, Carpenter fled the country, leaving a note saying that he was seeking "a more adventuristic" treatment for his terminal cancer.

In the handwritten note to federal Judge Edward J. Garcia, Carpenter explained: "I find my drive for survival stronger than my sense of obligation to your legal system."

Soon after he arrived in Costa Rica, Carpenter was located by U.S. authorities and jailed pending his extradition. In a jailhouse interview, Carpenter told a reporter for the Sacramento Bee that he would rather die in a Costa Rican prison than be sentenced in California. "You cannot go home again," he said, "even to die."

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