The Bail-Jumping Bail Bondsman
It was June, 2003. Andrew Luster, great-grandson of cosmetics giant Max Factor was running from the law. Charged with sexual assaults of three women in California, Luster had fled the country and ended up in Mexico. He was convicted in absentia of 86 counts, including multiple rape charges. However he had to be caught.
The case was extremely high, and the chase after Luster lasted several months, before it came to an end in the city of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. FBI investigators were on the scene, but also there was someone who then was not as famous as he is now: Duane “Dog” Chapman, along with his son Leland and associate (no relation) Tim Chapman.
Chapman had been following the case from the beginning, and had spent five months chasing after Luster. He was tipped off by a couple staying at a resort in Puerto Vallarta and went after the fugitive rapist. The couple, a few hours later, also gave the FBI the same information. However Dog had a head start.
And so Chapman, his son, associate, and two cameramen traveled down to the Zoo Bar, at the intersection of Mexico and Honduras Avenues. There they found Luster hiding out under the alias of David Carrera. Luster was captured and the bounty hunters were taking him back to the airport when something very surprising to them happened. They were stopped by local police and put under arrest.
Bounty hunting is illegal in Mexico, and since Dog was acting under no authority save his own, in the eyes of Mexican law what he was doing was no better than kidnapping. He was placed under arrest and spent the night with his son and associate inside of a Mexican prison cell. The three later posted bail, were let out of prison and fled the country. The bail bondsman had just jumped bail.
Chapman Back in the Doghouse
Flash forward three years. Duane “Dog” Chapman is now the star of a famous television show, “Dog: The Bounty Hunter.” He got the show mostly from the fame surrounding his capture of Luster. Chapman had been seeking fame and fortune from the arrest.
Fame came easily, fortune was another story. There was a million dollar reward out for Luster, Dog was seeking $350,000 of it. But since Dog had not been acting under any legal authority for the bounty, and had in fact violated Mexican law in apprehending Luster, he was entitled to no reward. The Dog got not a cent.
But he did get a television show, the most popular show on A&E in fact, “Dog: The Bounty Hunter,” following his exploits in tracking down those who, well, skip their bonds. In fact, Dog and his wife are owners of Da Kine Bail Bonds, the home base of the reality show in which they star.
Now, however, Dog has found himself back behind bars. On September 13, 2006 Mexico requested that he, his son and associate be extradited to Mexico for trial. The statute of limitations runs up in October 2006: if Dog is not brought back to Mexico now, they will not be able to hold a case against him.
Dog was put under arrest, although he is currently out on bail, again. He is forced to wear a collar to watch his movements, and is not allowed out of his house between 11:00 PM and 5:00 AM. A hearing was held about his case on September 18, 2006.
Should He Stay Or Should He Go?
The question before the court is: should Dog, Leland and Tim Chapman find themselves heading back to Mexico? Dog argues that he did nothing wrong, and that there is no reason for him to be extradited back to Mexico.
On a television special aired on A&E, the network that broadcasts “Dog: The Bounty Hunter” Tim Chapman in fact stated that he and the others felt they were safe, as long as they didn’t go back to Mexico. Apparently, in the logic of these three bounty hunters, it is OK to jump bail as long as you go to another country.
Supporters of Dog and Dog himself have stated that they were doing the right thing in Mexico, and that they caught a bad guy. They shouldn’t be punished for that. But the fact is that Dog was not acting in the interest of catching a bad guy, he was out for fame and fortune. The FBI was in Puerto Vallarta, they were only a few hours behind Dog. Had Dog not been there Andrew Luster would still have been caught. But Dog would not be the star of his own reality TV show right now.
Dog: The Bounty Hunter has brought a lot of attention to bounty hunting, and Dog’s arrest has certainly made for a big story. But is he being unfairly punished for doing the right thing? No. Dog deserves everything he gets in this case. He knowingly and flagrantly violated the law, and now he thinks that because he is special he should get away with it.
Just because you are going after criminals doesn’t mean that you should get to act against the law whenever you feel like it. It certainly does not mean that you should be allowed to violate the laws of another country, not even the United States, and then feel safe because you return to the United States.
Bounty hunting is very controversial in many places, and with good reason. While catching bail-jumpers is a good thing, and can sometimes ease a strain put on law enforcement who would otherwise have to chase these people down, there are legitimate concerns about vigilantism and having quasi-law enforcement agents thinking they are minor gods running around chasing down criminals outside of the normal authority of law enforcement. Mexico frowns on bounty hunting.
If Dog is not prosecuted for his crime, then what does that say about Mexican law? Will every yahoo who thinks they are a bounty hunter be allowed to traipse around Mexico doing whatever they want, as long as if they get caught they can pay their bail and run back to the United States with their tail between their legs? There is a reason that bounty hunting is against the law in Mexico. And as the judge stated in ruling against Dog getting a reward, Dog did not act properly within the confines of US law either.
Dog the Bounty Hunter should be sent back to Mexico and face up to his crimes. If he really wants to put up a good image of himself, he should act like a man and be responsible for his actions. Because the fact of the matter is, by fleeing justice for the past three years, he is no better than the people he hunts down.
Also read Dog the Bounty Hunter: American Hero or International Criminal?