Scientology critic Keith Henson gets another stay in Arizona as he fights extradition

PRESCOTT – A judge on Friday denied Howard Keith Henson‘s petition for a writ of habeas corpus his attorney filed challenging Henson’s extradition to California on a governor’s warrant.

However, the judge let him stay in Arizona until Monday so a higher court can review the lower court decision.

The 64-year-old defendant, whom a California jury convicted of violating a misdemeanor hate crime statute (stemming from his behavior near Church of Scientology members), has until 5 p.m. Monday, to obtain the stay from the Arizona Court of Appeals by filing a petition for special action.

If the court rejects the request to review the case, California authorities could extradite Henson to serve a one-year sentence he received in his absence after his conviction in April 2001. Henson has been on the run from authorities until his Feb. 2 arrest by a Prescott Police detective.

During a Friday hearing, Kielsky tried to convince Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Thomas Lindberg that his client is not the same person the Riverside County officials want.

He cited what he called numerous discrepancies in the documents from Riverside County agencies.

He said the fugitive they arrested on July 19, 2000, faces felony charges, and according to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office, his client has never been arrested. He said at the top of each page of the warrant, officials identified the fugitive as Keith Henson and his client is Howard Keith Henson. He said at least 20 people with the Keith Henson name live in this country and four of them lived in California.

“Identity is a core question of the habeas corpus,” he said. “My client is not the same individual sought in the warrant.”

Deputy Yavapai County Attorney Cynthia Spitler said defense counsel was confusing arrest with booking.

She said numerous paragraphs throughout the warrant identify the defendant as the person the

Riverside County officials are seeking.

Spitler said even if other people bear the same name and date of birth as the defendant, it would be hard to find another individual that matches his height and color of eyes and hair.

“The odds would have to be extraordinary,” Spitler said, asking Lindberg to deny Henson’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus.

Lindberg said despite many discrepancies that Kielsky brought to the court’s attention, the verdict that the jury returned “speaks to H. Keith Henson.”

He said he believes that the defendant is the same person California authorities are seeking on the governor’s warrant.

He also said that he sees no harm in granting Henson’s stay in Arizona to give Kielsky a chance to challenge his decision in the higher court.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Saturday May 19, 2007.
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