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August 16, 1988


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stiehl, District Judge:


Before the Court is Juan Ramon Matta-Ballesteros' (Matta) Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241 by a Person in Federal Custody.


This cause is before the Court in a posture somewhat different from the majority of federal habeas actions which the Court is regularly required to review. The petitioner is not challenging the duration or nature of his confinement; rather, he challenges the legality of his detention. Petitioner asserts that he was illegally and unconstitutionally taken from his home in Honduras and removed to the United States by federal agents. The relief Matta seeks is to have this Court declare that the United States is without jurisdiction over petitioner due to alleged violations of his right to due process in the manner of his apprehension, and order that Matta be returned to Honduras.

Matta is under indictment in the Northern District of Florida for an alleged escape from the United States Prison Camp at Eglin Air Force Base in 1971, and faces indictments on various narcotics charges in the Central and Southern Districts of California, and the District of Arizona. Matta originally sought a temporary restraining order from this Court to prevent the government from transferring him from the United States Penitentiary at Marion, Illinois, where he is currently detained, to face prosecution in any other district. The Court, upon consent of the government, entered its temporary restraining order on April 25, 1988. The Court directed the parties to brief certain issues prior to the preliminary injunction hearing on May 16, 1988. On May 4, 1988, again upon consent of the government, and for good cause shown, the TRO was extended until May 16, 1988. The Court heard extensive oral argument on the application for preliminary injunction, including arguments on the likelihood of success on the merits of the underlying habeas corpus action. The government agreed to a further extension of the TRO until the Court's ruling on the application for preliminary injunction.

On May 25, 1988, the Court denied Matta's application for a preliminary injunction. The Court ruled that petitioner had failed to establish that he lacked an adequate remedy at law; that he failed to show irreparable harm; and that the balance of harms did not weigh in petitioner's favor. The Court made no ruling as to the likelihood of success on the merits. The merits of Matta's habeas petition are now before the Court.

On June 2, 1988, the Court directed the government to show cause why the writ should not issue, and on June 20, 1988, ordered an expanded record from the parties, including affidavits from the petitioner and any occurrence witnesses. The parties have complied with the Order, and the Court has before it the petition for a writ of habeas corpus, the affidavits of Matta, certain occurrence and other witnesses, and certain reports.


A. Uncontroverted Facts

The following is a description of the events surrounding the arrest which are uncontroverted:

Juan Ramon Matta-Ballesteros, a/k/a Juan Ramon Mata del Pozo, a/k/a Juan Ramon Mata, (Matta) is a resident of Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Very early on the morning of April 5, 1988, Matta, accompanied by two security guards/drivers, went a short distance from his home to the residence of his attorney, Carlos D. Lorenzana. His guards remained outside while he went into the house. Within minutes of arriving, Matta received a telephone call from his wife. Matta exited his attorney's house to return to his home. Matta's security guards informed him that they had observed members of the military, described by one as the Honduras Special Troops known as "Cobra" watching the attorney's home while standing at either end of the street. Matta, accompanied by his security guards, drove the van back to his home.

Upon arriving at his home, Matta got out of the van and identified himself to members of the Honduran military. The van was surrounded by many military men with weapons. A beige Land Cruiser Toyota pickup truck pulled up and two men arrested Matta. Included among the group at Matta's house were some Americans in civilian clothing. Matta was grabbed, a brief struggle ensued, a black hood was placed over his head, and he was pushed onto the floor in the back seat of the Land Cruiser. At some point during the apprehension, Matta may have been shocked several times by a stun gun.

Deputy United States Marshal, Juan J. Donato Morales, drove the Land Cruiser to an air base, an hour to an hour and a half away. Sometime thereafter, Matta was placed on an airplane. He was subsequently flown to the United States, and then transferred to the United States Penitentiary at Marion, Illinois, in this District, early on the morning of April 6, 1988. Approximately 24 hours elapsed from the time of his apprehension to the time of his arrival at Marion Penitentiary.

Upon his arrival at Marion on April 6, 1988, Matta was given an initial medical examination. The examination revealed, in part, the following:

Clinical Evaluation                    Notes
  18. Head, Face, Neck     Linear abrasions at left and posterior
      and Scalp            basal aspect of the neck
  34. G-U System           Presence of depigment ed area with
                           some scaling at the left side of
                           proximal shaft of the penis
  35. Upper Extremities    Linear abrasions at the distal part of
                           both forearms mostly at the lateral
                           and posterior side. Palmar side of
                           both hands are smeared light red (per
                           pt's information it's from blood)
  36. Feet                 Abrasion about 1 1/3 x 1/2 cm at
                           dorsum of left foot
  39. Identifying Body     Multiple erythematous spots of about
      Marks, Scars,        3-5 mm at the back. Few of these spots
      Tattoos              have denuded skin compatible with
                           ruptured blister

B. Controverted Facts

The expanded record reveals the following questions of fact exist:

1. Petitioner asserts that a large group of United States agents were present at Matta's home. The government asserts that there were only four members of the United States Marshals Service near Matta's residence.

2. Petitioner asserts that he was seized by American "agents" in civilian clothing. The government asserts that the apprehension was made by Honduran officers, and that no United States ...

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