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Mexico Returns Man Accused of Firing at County Deputies

The nation usually refuses to extradite fugitives facing possible life in prison.

June 17, 2005|Caitlin Liu | Times Staff Writer

Law enforcement officials announced Thursday that Mexico had returned a fugitive facing a life sentence to Los Angeles County -- the first such extradition since October 2001.

Ricardo Rodriguez, 26, had fled to Mexico after he allegedly fired an assault rifle at two Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies when they tried to pull over his car for running a red light in April 2004. Now charged with attempted murder, he faces a maximum of two life sentences and 54 years in state prison.

The Mexican government historically has refused to extradite suspects who face the death penalty because of the nation's opposition to capital punishment.

In October 2001, Mexico's Supreme Court extended the ban to those facing life in prison, or an indefinite sentence.

But last year, prosecutors detected a change in that stance when Mexican authorities permitted the extradition of two suspects to Ventura and San Bernardino counties, although the men faced charges that could imprison them for life.

"We are hopeful that this case today is a good beginning for officials on both sides of the border to [work out] our differences," said Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca said Rodriguez's extradition was a "small step in the right direction" and expressed outrage that Mexican authorities still refuse to return suspects charged with capital murder.

"The [Mexican] Supreme Court has made some shameful decisions," Baca said.

"Although we have a success story today, there are hundreds of [cases] that are not successful. Our countries are at odds over prosecuting criminals," Baca said.

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