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Conviction Upheld In Florida Immigrant Smuggling Case

A federal appeals court Tuesday upheld the conviction and sentence of a man who smuggled immigrants into South Florida from the Bahamas in 2012 and 2013.

A federal appeals court Tuesday upheld the conviction and sentence of a man who smuggled immigrants into South Florida from the Bahamas in 2012 and 2013.

Michael Stapleton was convicted on 47 counts involving the smuggling operation and sentenced to nearly 22 years in prison.

He raised a series of issues in an appeal to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, including that his constitutional right to a speedy trial had been violated.

An indictment was filed in September 2014, but Stapleton was not arrested until May 2018 after he traveled from Jamaica to Germany.

The appeals court said authorities had looked at extraditing Stapleton from the Bahamas or Jamaica, but those countries would have required affidavits from 33 immigrants involved in the case — a requirement that would have been difficult to meet.

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Authorities ultimately extradited him from Germany, where the requirements were easier. A three-judge panel of the appeals court upheld a district judge’s rejection of Stapleton’s arguments about his right to a speedy trial.

“The district court didn’t clearly err in finding that the government acted ‘reasonably and diligently’ in attempting to secure Stapleton’s extradition to the United States; the reason for the delay wasn’t bad faith or negligence,” said Tuesday’s 22-page ruling, written by Judge Kevin Newsom and joined by Judges Stanley Marcus and Virginia Covington.

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