NJ judge rules Portuguese fugitive must go back

AP News
Posted: May 17, 2011 3:35 PM
NJ judge rules Portuguese fugitive must go back

A federal judge in New Jersey ruled Tuesday that a Portuguese man arrested after a traffic stop last month can be returned to his home country to face a prison sentence for allegedly hiring hit men to murder his ex-wife in 2006.

But Manuel Albert Soares' attorney said he will appeal the ruling, which means a resolution may not come for months.

Soares appeared in federal court in Newark in handcuffs Tuesday. He has been held since mid-April when he was pulled over for driving in a carpool lane with fewer than the required three passengers. Police discovered an international warrant for his arrest during a driver's license check.

A Portuguese criminal court acquitted Soares in 2007 of the attempted murder of Maria Teresa Franqueira Mourao, but prosecutors appealed and Portugal's supreme court revoked the acquittal, sentencing Soares to four years and six months in prison.

In Tuesday's ruling, U.S. Magistrate Judge Madeline Cox Arleo rejected defense attorney Michael Orozco's request for more time to gather trial transcripts he said would establish that there wasn't probable cause to arrest Soares initially.

"My role is limited, it's not to retry the case," Cox Arleo said.

In a request for bail that Cox Arleo denied, Orozco questioned the characterization of his client as a fugitive and said Soares left Portugal legally while the case was on appeal and has been living openly in the U.S. _ even renewing his driver's license in the weeks before he was detained. The 55-year-old Soares was born in Newark and has dual U.S. and Portuguese citizenship.

Orozco said he planned to appeal Cox Arleo's ruling, an action that would transfer the case to a U.S. District judge and could delay a ruling for a few months. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Romankow declined comment after the hearing.