Descendant of George Washington Held on Fugitive Charge

One of George Washington's descendants was in jail Friday, facing extradition to France to face charges that he beat a man into a coma.

John Augustine Washington V, a history student at Oxford University in England, is accused of smashing a bottle over the head of Colin Hall on July 24 in a bar in the French resort of St. Tropez. Washington was subdued by the club's security staff and questioned — then released — by French police. Washington left France and returned to Oxford, according to papers filed by his lawyer.

Hall, a 36-year-old American living in London, slipped into a coma after the attack, according to court papers filed this week in U.S. District Court in western New York. In a statement, Hall said the coma lasted five days. But in court papers in New York, prosecutors said the coma lasted several weeks.

That is not the only discrepancy in the records. Court papers list two birthdays for Washington: July 15, 1963, and July 15, 1977. An independent record search by The Associated Press indicates the first birthday is correct, making Washington 43 years old.

An international arrest warrant charging Washington with assault with a weapon was issued on July 27 in Nice, France. U.S. Marshals arrested him Monday after getting a tip that he was at the Chautauqua Institution, a learning and arts retreat in rural southwestern New York that also has private residences, condominiums and apartments. He faces up to five years in prison if convicted of the assault charge.

Dan Larish, supervising deputy U.S. Marshal for the Western District, said Washington was staying at the Chautauqua Institution for two or three months. He was arrested as he walked to his car.

The victim's lawyer, Brian MacLaurin, said a former friend of Washington tipped authorities to his whereabouts.

Washington's lawyer, Amy Martoche of Buffalo, said in court papers that Washington was never contacted by police after the initial interview and left the country several days after the assault. Once he learned there was a warrant for his arrest, Martoche said, he began working with his French lawyers to negotiate — unsuccessfully — his return to France.

One of the witnesses to the assault, identified in London newspapers as 20-year-old Laura Clegg, told authorities that she was the reason the two men met that night in St. Tropez.

In a statement released by his lawyer, Hall lashed out at his fellow expatriate.

"Multiple eyewitnesses have given sworn statements to the French authorities identifying Mr. Washington as my assailant and confirming the assault was brutal and completely unprovoked," Hall said. "He then escaped from France knowing I was lying near death in a coma, that the French police were looking for him everywhere and that his photograph was in every newspaper in the UK."

America's first president, the general who led the colonists to victory in the Revolutionary War, had no children of his own, but his brother, John Augustine Washington, did. John Augustine Washington V is described in court papers simply as a "descendant" of the Founding Father, and in newspaper accounts as an "ancestral nephew." He has appeared on several educational television shows, including the recent Discovery Channel series "Greatest American."

U.S. Magistrate Judge Leslie Foschio rejected a request for bail and sent Washington to jail until January 8, when he is due back in court.

Neither Martoche nor Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Campana could immediately be reached Friday.