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In re Extradition of Tsvetomir Simeonov

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

July 9, 2019

IN THE MATTER OF THE EXTRADITION OF TSVETOMIR SIMEONOV

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Sheila Finnegan United States Magistrate Judge.

         The Government of the Republic of Bulgaria (“Bulgaria”) requests the extradition of Defendant Tsvetomir Simeonov pursuant to the Extradition Treaty Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Republic of Bulgaria, and the Agreement on Certain Aspects of Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of the Republic of Bulgaria (collectively, the “Treaty”). U.S.-Bulg., Sept. 19, 2007, S. Treaty Doc. No. 110-112 (2008). Mr. Simeonov objects to extradition, arguing that Bulgaria's request does not provide all of the necessary information required by the Treaty, and that extradition is improper given his pending asylum petition.

         This Court has carefully considered the relevant Treaty provisions, the exhibits submitted by Bulgaria in support of its extradition request, and the written submissions from the Government and Mr. Simeonov. For reasons set forth here, this Court overrules Mr. Simeonov's objections and finds that all the requirements for extradition have been satisfied. The Court therefore will certify this case to the U.S. Secretary of State for further consideration.

         BACKGROUND

         Bulgarian authorities arrested Mr. Simeonov on December 20, 2001 after finding Makarov pistols (military firearms) and related paraphernalia in his home. Mr. Simeonov was charged with (1) unlawfully remanufacturing and repairing gas pistols into firearms, in violation of Article 337, paragraph 1 of Bulgaria's Criminal Code (the “Code”), and (2) unlawfully acquiring and holding remanufactured firearms and ammunition, in violation of Article 339, paragraph 1 of the Code. (Complaint, Group Ex. 1, EXT-SIMEONOV-00203-04). After attending his first five court hearings, Mr. Simeonov stopped appearing for further proceedings, though he continued to be represented by counsel. (Id. at 225). The Bulgarian court proceeded in his absence, hearing testimony from a witness who said he sold gas pistols to Mr. Simeonov two days before the arrest, as well as from a ballistics expert who said those same gas pistols had been remanufactured into firearms capable of shooting live ammunition. (Id. at 169, 172-77, 187-88, 198-202, 206).

         On November 19, 2004, the Bulgarian court found Mr. Simeonov guilty of both firearms charges and sentenced him to 7 years and 6 months in prison. (Id. at 72-74). By that time, Mr. Simeonov had fled to the United States and so has not served any portion of his sentence. (Id. at 114). On January 4, 2006, the Bulgarian court issued an Order of Detention for Mr. Simeonov. (Id. at 131-32). On or about April 26, 2019, Mr. Simeonov was arrested in Chicago pursuant to a complaint filed at Bulgaria's request seeking extradition under the Treaty. The Government has filed a brief in support of extradition, and Mr. Simeonov has filed one in opposition.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Standard of Review

         “Extradition is primarily an executive function, with the court playing a defined and limited role.” Matter of Extradition of Noeller, No. 17 CR 664, 2018 WL 1027513, at *6 (N.D. Ill. Feb. 23, 2018). An extradition proceeding is not a trial on the merits but is instead similar to a preliminary hearing in a criminal matter. Bovio v. U.S., 989 F.2d 255, 259 (7th Cir. 1993). “Extradition hearings ‘embody no judgment on the guilt or innocence of the accused but serve only to insure that his culpability will be determined in another and, in this instance, a foreign forum.'” Noeller v. Wojdylo, 922 F.3d 797, 804 (7th Cir. 2019) (quoting Jhirad v. Ferrandina, 536 F.2d 478, 482 (2d Cir. 1976)). See also In re Extradition of Jarosz, 800 F.Supp.2d 935, 940-41 (N.D. Ill. 2011) (citing Collins v. Loisel, 259 U.S. 309, 316 (1922)) (“Recognizing the right of the accused to have a plenary hearing and trial in the United States would compel the demanding government to produce all of its evidence on American soil, . . . subjecting them not only to the difficulties of an unfamiliar system but also the demands of transporting physical evidence and witnesses.”). Extradition will be denied when the request consists of “mere conclusory allegations unsupported by substantive evidence.” In re Rodriguez Ortiz, 444 F.Supp.2d 876, 884 (N.D. Ill. 2006).

         “If the judicial officer concludes that the extradition requirements have been met, the officer ‘shall certify the same' to the Secretary of State for a warrant to issue for the surrender of the requested person.” Matter of Extradition of Schumann, No. 18 CR 283, 2018 WL 4777562, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 3, 2018) (quoting 18 U.S.C. § 3184). “[T]he decision whether the fugitive should be turned over to the requesting country rests entirely with the Secretary of State.” Id. In that regard, “[i]t is up to the Secretary of State, not the court, to weigh any defenses the fugitive raises touching on international relations, such as ‘contentions that the extradition is politically motivated, that the requesting state's justice system is unfair, or that extradition should be denied on humanitarian grounds.'” Id. (quoting Matter of Extradition of Noeller, No. 17 CR 664, 2017 WL 6462358, at *2 (N.D. Ill.Dec. 19, 2017)).

         II. Requirements to Certify Extradition

         Extradition is appropriate where the Court makes the following findings: (1) the judicial officer has jurisdiction to conduct an extradition proceeding; (2) the Court has jurisdiction over the fugitive; (3) the person before the Court is the fugitive named in the request for extradition; (4) there is an extradition treaty in full force and effect; (5) the crimes for which surrender is requested are covered by that treaty; and (6) there is competent legal evidence to support the finding of probable cause as to each charge for which extradition is sought. Matter of Extradition of Cruz, No. 16 CR 283, 2016 WL 6248184, at *2 (N.D. Ill. Oct. 26, 2016) (citing Fernandez v. Phillips, 268 U.S. 311, 312 (1925)). Mr. Simeonov does not disagree that all of these factors are satisfied here.

         To begin, “federal magistrate judges are specifically included among the judicial officers authorized by the extradition statute to consider extradition, and there is no dispute that [Mr. Simeonov] was found and is now in custody within this district, giving this Court personal jurisdiction to determine whether he is subject to extradition.” Matter of Extradition of Schumann, 2018 WL 4777562, at *3. In addition, Bulgaria submitted photographs, fingerprints, and other identifying information for Mr. Simeonov demonstrating that he is the individual named in the request for extradition. (Complaint, Group Ex. 1, EXT-SIMEONOV-00134-36, 140-44).

         The fourth and fifth factors are satisfied based on the uncontested declaration from an Attorney Adviser in the Office of the Legal Adviser for the Department of State attesting that the Treaty is in full force and effect between the United States and Bulgaria, and that the offenses for which Mr. Simeonov's surrender is requested are covered by the Treaty. (Id. at 1-2). See also El Al Israel Airlines, Ltd. v. Tsui Yuan Tseng, 525 U.S. 155, 168 (1999) (“Respect is ordinarily due the reasonable views of the Executive Branch concerning the meaning of an international treaty.”); Matter of Extradition of Schumann, 2018 WL 4777562, at *3. The Government also provided a detailed analysis explaining how the criminal conduct in question is an extraditable offense under the Treaty since it would violate federal and Illinois law had it been committed in the United States. (Doc. 17, at ...


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