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Shawn Abraham Shaw, 43, from South Florida, is a man Thai authorities want to see extradited back to Thailand to face criminal charges over an alleged kidnapping in December 2013. He says he is an innocent man terrified of being extradited to a foreign country where he thinks he may be tortured and possibly executed without a fair trial.
Federal prosecutors say that Shaw is an international fugitive who hid in the US after kidnapping a wealthy U.S businessman in Thailand before negotiating a $2 million ransom. He has been in jail since he was arrested at his Palm Beach condo since November 26th.
Shaw and his defense lawyer claim that he is being set up by a powerful family in Thailand who wish to see him locked up after a business deal between them soured. They say that Shaw asked the alleged victim, Antonio Accornero, a long term friend of the accused, to join him in a business deal that involved cashing in casino chips taken home by tourists. Shaw and his team say there was kidnapping and it is a totally fabricated prosecution.
However the Royal Thai Police and prosecutors say that Shaw committed a bizarre series of crimes against Accornero, one of which was secretly drugging the man at a Phuket bar before using plastic ties to bind his neck to the headrest of a car as well as securing both his wrists and ankles in the same manor. Accornero has signed a statement to say that Shaw then held him captive overnight in a local house and demanded $3 million, a sum to be paid to Shaw once he had returned to the U.S, he went on to say that during his captivity he managed to negotiate the deal down to $2 million.
The defense team told the judge that it was completely absurd to believe that Accorero was able to negotiate an IOU on kidnapping while he was being held captive and supposedly under Shaw’s compete control. The lawyer also argued that it made no sense that the supposedly terrified victim failed to even report the incident on his return to the U.S for more than 40 days. He went on to say that Accornero and Shaw’s business lawyers in the U.S continued to try to negotiate a legitimate casino chip deal for around a month after Shaw returned to the U.S from Thailand.
Although no money has changed hands, prosecutors said that the ongoing talk about a casino chip deal was an attempt to cover up the ransom payment that had been disguised as a business deal.
Dawn Pasqualucci, the fiancé of Shaw was with him on his trip to Thailand, she says that Accornero threatened their lives after Shaw found something on the computer of Accornero suggesting he liked little boys. She went on to say that she believes that her and Shaw have been followed around by private investigators since returning to the U.S hired by the Accornero. Court records show that she went to an FBI office to report those fears in January 23rd 2014.
The defense questioned the motives and methods of Thai investigators. In an interview with reporters, and questioned why the alleged victim, who splits his time between Las Vegas and Thailand, has not participated in any of the extradition proceedings in the US.
Thai authorities first sent a provisional arrest warrant to the U.S. in October 2014, records show.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Evans, who is handling the extradition case for the U.S. Department of State, told U.S. Magistrate Judge William Matthewman there would be serious diplomatic consequences if the U.S. did not honor the terms of its international treaty with Thailand. The treaty calls for both countries to turn over crime suspects to face trial so long as the requesting country has enough evidence to file charges.
The defense argued that Shaw, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Guyana, is facing extradition under an outdated treaty that was signed during Ronald Reagan’s presidency in the 1980s when Thailand was under a very different form of government. Thailand’s democratically elected government was overthrown in a coup in May. The country is now being ruled by a “junta military dictatorship,” Kreiss told the judge. Human rights experts and media reports have warned that the right to a fair trial is in jeopardy there.
“There is no guarantee that, if Mr. Shaw is extradited, the junta regime will abide by the terms of the treaty,” Kreiss said.
Prosecutors assured the judge that, despite Shaw’s fears, the criminal charges he faces in Thailand are not punishable by the death penalty, but he could face a long prison term.
After Shaw’s emotional speech in court, the judge assured him he would consider all the evidence and ensure that his legal rights here are fully protected. But the judge also said he has limited powers in these kinds of cases: Shaw cannot go to trial on the evidence in the US and Matthewman would have to sign an extradition certificate if the initial evidence is strong enough to warrant turning him over.
The judge, who is expected to rule next month, said that, if he agrees Shaw could be extradited, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry would then make the final decision on whether to actually turn him over. Kerry is the appropriate person to lobby about Shaw’s fear he would be denied justice or executed, the judge said.
“I’m here to ensure that you do get due process and I’m going to do that,” said Matthewman.