PUERTO VALLARTA, Mexico – A judge found enough evidence Thursday to order U.S. bounty hunter Duane "Dog" Chapman (search), his son and brother to stand trial on criminal charges for capturing a fugitive American heir.
Judge Jose de Jesus Pineda freed two other Americans, producer Jeff Sells and actor Boris Krutonog, but found that the Chapmans should be charged with criminal association and deprivation of liberty -- similar to kidnapping without requesting a ransom.
Chapman, a 50-year-old Hawaii-based bounty hunter, his son Leland and brother Timothy were arrested along with Sells and Krutonog on June 18, about two hours after the group captured convicted rapist Andrew Luster (search) near a taco stand in this popular Pacific resort city.
Prosecutors maintain that the dramatic capture of the Max Factor (search) cosmetics heir violated Mexican sovereignty. They say the Americans should have gone to police instead of trying to capture Luster themselves.
The Chapmans each could face up to eight years in prison if convicted on both counts.
"The evidence justifies that they remain in prison on charges that they committed these crimes," Pineda said in an interview minutes before he made the ruling. He added that the same evidence mandated that he drop all charges against Sells and Krutonog.
The Americans were released from prison after posting a bail of $1,430 each last week, but were ordered to remain in Puerto Vallarta. The fate of the Chapmans was unclear immediately after the ruling because the case will now be handed over to a judge in Guadalajara, Mexico's second-largest city, about 215 miles from Puerto Vallarta.
Before coming to Mexico, Duane Chapman told reporters he hoped to reap a reward from the $1 million bail that Luster forfeited by fleeing his trial in Ventura, Calif. Luster was convicted in absentia. Bounty hunters have no special privileges in Mexico.
Last week, authorities expelled Luster to the United States, and he has begun serving a 124-year prison sentence for drugging and raping three women. The 39-year-old fled to Mexico and spent nearly six months on the run after jumping bail.
Three women who say they were sexually assaulted by Luster have filed lawsuits against him.