NEWARK, N.J. – An attorney for a man wanted in Portugal to serve time there for his conviction in a murder-for-hire plot told a judge Thursday that there isn't enough evidence to warrant his extradition.
Manuel Albert Soares has been incarcerated in New Jersey since April, when he was pulled over on the New Jersey Turnpike and police discovered an international warrant for his arrest.
A Portuguese criminal court acquitted Soares in 2007 of the attempted murder of ex-wife Maria Teresa Franqueira Mourao, but prosecutors appealed. Portugal's Supreme Court revoked the acquittal, sentencing Soares to four years and six months in prison.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Madeline Cox Arleo ruled in May that Soares should be extradited, arguing it wasn't the job of the U.S. courts to retry the case. She dismissed a request from his attorney that she consider transcripts from his Portuguese trial in her decision.
Soares appealed Cox-Arleo's ruling and asked for another hearing. On Thursday, his attorney, Michael Orozco, tried to make the same argument before a different judge in Newark federal court.
Orozco told U.S. District Judge Jose Linares that the Portuguese court decision hadn't been based on enough evidence to meet the burden of proof required to extradite someone from the U.S.
"There was no DNA evidence, no bank records, no fingerprints," Orozco said of Soares' conviction in Portugal. "There is, in essence, nothing other than a suspicion, that, because he went through a divorce, and that divorce wasn't nice, and because he was the ex-husband, that no one else could be the suspect."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Romankow countered that Soares' guilt had been judged by the highest court in Portugal and that it wasn't the role of the U.S. courts to retry the case or even consider evidence from the trial in deciding whether he met the criteria for extradition.
"There is no mechanism for (Soares) to ask for a re-evaluation of the evidence," Romankow said.
In an earlier letter to Linares, Soares said he had never attempted to hide from U.S. or Portuguese authorities and had been living openly in New Jersey, even renewing his state driver's license in the weeks before he was detained.
Orozco said Soares knew about the Supreme Court order in Portugal and had written to U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to try to appeal his case.
The judge said he would issue a ruling next week.
As Soares was led in handcuffs and a prison jumpsuit from the courtroom, he turned, winked and blew a kiss to a court gallery full of relatives and supporters who filled the benches.
The 55-year-old Soares was born in the U.S. and has roots in New Jersey's largest city, Newark, which is less than 10 miles outside of Manhattan and is home to a large Portuguese community. He holds dual U.S. and Portuguese citizenship.
Follow Samantha Henry at http://www.twitter.com/SamanthaHenry.
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