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Thailand


For nearly eighteen years, Sullivan has been a prime suspect in Lita's murder. At the top of the FBI's most-wanted list for four years,

Sullivan led investigators on an international manhunt throughout Central America to, eventually, Thailand.

In 2002, America's Most Wanted ran a segment on Sullivan and, incredibly, someone in Thailand recognized him. He was living in Cha-am, a luxury condo community about 150 miles south of Bangkok. He lived with Chongwattana Reynolds, a Thai divorcee he had met in West Palm Beach.

More than fifteen years after Lita's shooting, Thai police arrested Sullivan and took him to Lard Yao Prison, on the outskirts of Bangkok. There his lawyers fought extradition, hoping to use international laws to avoid the death penalty.

Thai prisons are notoriously crowded places. Amnesty International says that more than fifty inmates are held in cells built for twenty, that the prisons are plagued by rats, disease, and rotting food, and that guard brutality is rampant.

On his two visits to see Sullivan in Thailand, Samuel says the situation was better than he'd feared. "I never had the sense that the conditions were so bad that it would shock the consciousness," says Samuel. "It appeared to be in all respects humane." Reynolds visited him often during his more than eighteen months of incarceration. On one such visit, Samuel said, the couple got married, making Reynolds, Sullivan's fourth wife.

By virtue of his parentage, Sullivan has dual citizenship in both the United States and Ireland. Like other Western European countries, Ireland opposes the death penalty and the extradition of Irish citizens to any country that enforces capital punishment. When the Thai courts denied the citizenship motion, Sullivan's lawyers appealed to the Thai Supreme Court, saying that prosecuting Sullivan for Lita's death was a case of double jeopardy-Georgia's constitution states that a person cannot be tried for the same crime twice. Samuel says that because Sullivan was already prosecuted unsuccessfully in the 1992 case, which was dismissed for insufficient evidence, he should not be tried again. Again, the Thai courts denied the appeal.

In March 2004, extradition was finally granted, and a disheveled sixty-two-year-old Sullivan limped off the plane at Hartsfield before being transported to the Fulton County Jail. Sullivan wore handcuffs and shackles, a facemask and a single shoe. "He was being difficult," reported U.S. Marshal Richard Mecum. "He obviously didn't want to come back." Scott Page, one of three U.S. marshals who traveled with Sullivan from Thailand, said the fugitive read Newsweek the whole way, while grumbling profanity at the notion of returning to Atlanta.

A few days after Sullivan's arrival, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard Jr. served Sullivan notice of the state's intent to seek the death penalty against him.

Sullivan's lawyer, Don Samuel, said Sullivan's foot had swollen on the flight over, that the facemask was just a precaution in light of SARS. He said that Sullivan has a serious dental problem, one that the lawyers are "struggling" to get Fulton County to address. While he was incarcerated in Thailand, Samuel admitted, Sullivan did get into a fight.

Samuel says Sullivan's defense is simple: "He didn't do it. He is not guilty." Samuel argues that Sullivan did not flee, that he just happened to move at the time of his indictment, that he had left the country long before there was a warrant for his arrest. Apparently, he was unaware that he was the target of an international manhunt.

Today Samuel contends that the state's case is no better than it was in 1992, when it was thrown out for insufficient evidence. His contention is that Sullivan will get off, that some day he'll walk out a free man.

That thought makes the McClintons' blood boil.

The McClintons' lawyer, Brad Moores, says that when Sullivan fled to Costa Rica in 1998, he hired a private banker in Palm Beach who worked with a Swiss bank to hide Sullivan's money in offshore accounts. Those monies were funneled through a corporate trust account established in the small country of Liechtenstein. All statements from the corporation, Nicola Resources, were sent to

Sullivan in Thailand. Moores says a lawyer in Liechtenstein managed the funds and sent Sullivan money whenever he needed it.

"He's still a pretty wealthy individual," says Moores. Neither the McClintons, nor their lawyers, have ever seen a dime from the $4 million judgment they won in 1994 (which is now calculated at $8.8 million due to accrued interest). Moores is on a hunt to find Sullivan's well-hidden money.

While the McClintons believe in Sullivan's constitutional right to a lawyer, they think he shouldn't be able to use the money from the Florida lawsuit to pay for his high-priced criminal lawyers. Jo Ann calls it "blood money," while Moores calls it a lawsuit, one that's pending against Samuel and Garland for accepting funds from Sullivan that they knew were subject to the judgment.

District Attorney Paul Howard Jr. believes Sullivan should be court-ordered to pay his civil court judgment. "It is really obscene that you could take somebody's life, profit from it and then use the proceeds from it to defend your life in a trial involving that same person," he said.

Howard looks forward to the trial, which could start in early 2005. "I've talked to a lot of people in our county," he says. "I was surprised when Sullivan was returned that so many people I've never met would just walk up to me and say, 'We want you to make sure he understands that you just can't get away with something like that in Fulton County.' " Howard says the fact that Sullivan was living in luxury, basically vacationing, offends a lot of people and that anyone familiar with the case over the past seventeen-plus years wants to see it resolved.

"I think we've waited long enough."



Fulton County | The Best American Crime Writing 2005 | Atlanta







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