DEA agent, James “Terry” Watson, was killed on June 20, 2013 during a botched attempted robbery in the north of the Colombian capital.
In an interview with radio station La FM on Thursday morning, Santos announced that he had authorized the extradition, a week after it was endorsed by Colombia’s Supreme Court on the grounds that the agent was a protected person.
Watson’s diplomatic status as an “internationally protected” agent meant that the US government could ask for the extradition of the criminal group, despite the fact that the crime was committed in Colombia by Colombian citizens.
Millionaire ride ends badly
The gang of seven has confessed to taking at least 50 victims on “millionaire rides,” a form of robbery in which a victim is taken to an ATM and forced to take out money, often under the influence of drugs.
In this case, Watson hailed a taxi outside a restaurant where he was watching the NBA finals on TV. His taxi driver conspired with a group six others to take Watson for a “millionaire ride,” but Watson reportedly fought back and in the ensuing struggle was stabbed to death.
Watson was a 13-year veteran of the DEA. He had been sent to Afghanistan three times on counter-narcotics trafficking assignments and had previously served in the Army and worked for the U.S. Marshals Service.
Last ditch appeal
Just last week, the legal defense for the seven accused petitioned the highest international court in the Americas to overturn their extradition to the United States.
Lawyer Miguel Angel Ramirez has petitioned the Inter-American Court on Human Rights Court (IACHR) to overturn a Colombian Supreme Court ruling, claiming that extraditing the alleged murderers to the United States would infringe on the Colombian legal definition of a “fair trial.”
All seven suspects are suspected to be part of a gang allegedly dedicated to robbing taxi passengers, six of which are charged with aggravated homicide, kidnapping and conspiracy. One suspect is wanted for extradition to respond to obstruction of justice charges.
The seven have reportedly expressed their remorse for the crime and are willing to serve the 45-year maximum sentences under Colombian law.
The United States does not have maximum sentencing laws and the defendants’ sentences could be longer than 45 years if they are extradited to the United States.
Following Watson’s death, Colombian Senator Armando Benedetti of the coalition U Party introduced a bill to try and stop “millionaire rides.” He claims that “in the last two years, more than 200 people have been victims of [it] and so far this year there have been 35 reports of this crime in Bogota.”