US Fugitive Claims New Identity to Stop Extradition from Portugal

A lawyer for George Wright says the fugitive should serve the remainder of his sentence in Portugal.

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    George Wright has been found after being on the run for 4 decades, but now his lawyer says he should serve his sentence in Portugal.

    Captured American fugitive George Wright will claim a new identity to prevent the U.S. from extraditing him, his lawyer said Saturday.

    Wright, 68, became a Portuguese citizen, called Jose Luis Jorge dos Santos, in 1991 after marrying a Portuguese woman, lawyer Manuel Luis Ferreira told The Associated Press.

    Ferreira said in an interview that Wright's new identity was given to him by West African country Guinea-Bissau when it granted him political asylum in the 1980s and was accepted by Portugal.

    The U.S. is trying to extradite Wright to serve the remainder of his 15- to 30-year sentence for a 1962 murder in New Jersey. He had served more than seven years before breaking out of prison in 1970.

    But Ferreira said his client argues that he has the right to serve the time in Portugal because he has Portuguese citizenship based on his new identity.

    "As a Portuguese citizen, if he has to answer to any authority or if he has to serve any sentence, it has to be to Portuguese authorities and in Portuguese territory," Ferreira said.

    U.S. Justice Department spokeswoman Laura Sweeney, reached by email, declined to comment on Ferreira's arguments because the case is pending.

    A judge is expected to rule on the extradition request in coming weeks. If he loses, Wright could appeal to higher courts in what would likely be a lengthy process.

    Official documents belonging to Wright and provided to the AP show Portugal accepted his new identity papers when it granted him citizenship.

    Wright has a Portuguese passport, issued in 2007, and other documents including a Portuguese social security number, driving license and voter registration card.

    "There's no doubt whatsoever about his nationality," Ferreira said, adding that Jose Luis Jorge dos Santos "is now his real name."

    Ferreira also hopes to persuade the Lisbon judge hearing the case that Wright should serve any outstanding jail time in his adopted country because that is where his wife and grown son and daughter live.

    Ferreira is due to present his written arguments to the judge on Thursday after an initial hearing last Tuesday when Wright opposed his extradition.