HONOLULU – Duane "Dog" Chapman cannot be extradited to Mexico to face criminal charges in his capture of serial rapist and fugitive Andrew Luster in 2003, a three-judge panel in Mexico has ruled.
The unanimous ruling was handed down Tuesday. The TV bounty hunter, his son Leland Chapman and associate Tim Chapman faced being sent to the resort town of Puerto Vallarta, where they captured Luster, who had jumped a $1 million bond on charges that he drugged and raped three women.
"He's a free man," Chapman's San Francisco-based attorney, James A. Quadra, said in a telephone interview late Tuesday. "They can't reinstate any criminal charges and as a result of that, there's no basis for them to then seek extradition."
Luster's disappearance during his trial in California set off an international manhunt by police, FBI and bounty hunters trying to recoup some of the bond money. After his capture, he was taken back to the U.S. to serve a 124-year prison sentence.
Because bounty hunting is illegal in Mexico, prosecutors in that country charged the trio with detaining Luster and asked U.S. authorities to arrest Chapman and his colleagues and send them to Mexico.
"The three of them -- Duane, Leland and Tim -- have always been absolutely certain they did the right thing and proud of what they accomplished," Quadra said.
A judge in Mexico dismissed the deprivation of liberty charges in July, ruling prosecutors had taken too long in their attempts to bring the trio to trial. But Mexican prosecutors appealed the ruling.
"We are ecstatic that this nightmare is finally over, and happy to see the Mexican justice system works," Chapman and his wife, Beth, said in a statement. "We can all now move forward."
Quadra said Chapman and his crew could return to Mexico one day.
"Dog loves what he does. He likes to capture the bad guy. If a bad guy is in Mexico, who knows what Dog will do in the future," he said. "At this point, he wants to relax and enjoy the fact he doesn't have this hanging over his head. The future will bring what the future brings, but I don't think Dog is going to sit quietly."
The A&E network put Chapman's "Dog the Bounty Hunter" show indefinitely on hold last November after a private phone conversation between the reality star and his son Tucker was posted online.
The National Enquirer posted an audio clip of Chapman using a slur repeatedly in reference to his son's black girlfriend.
Chapman apologized and vowed to never utter the word again. He has met with several black leaders over the past several months.