A federal magistrate in New Orleans cleared the way Monday for a Kenner man wanted in a murder-for-hire schemein Curaçao to be extradited to the Dutch Caribbean island.
Magistrate Joseph Wilkinson, in a nine-page order, found there was sufficient evidence for the State Department to return Keith Alden Kemba Godwin to Curaçao, an island off the Venezuelan coast where Godwin is wanted on counts of murder and manslaughter.
Godwin, who has been in federal custody since his June arrest, is accused of playing a part in the killing of Raikel Conception, a 34-year-old man gunned down in January 2013 on a speedboat in Caracas Bay.
Godwin, 27, who was born in St. Kitts, was implicated in the slaying by Elvis Kuwas, a co-defendant known as “Monster” who, according to the authorities, has confessed to assassinating Helmin M. Wiels, a prominent member of Parliament in Curaçao, in a separate killing last year.
Kuwas supposedly told investigators Godwin shot Conception, though other witnesses’ accounts suggest Godwin acted as a “chauffeur” in the hit.
Wilkinson, in his ruling, acknowledged the “prosecution’s evidence sometimes conflicts, in that the statements of its witnesses against Godwin characterize him sometimes merely as the driver of a vehicle used to facilitate the killing and other times as the shooter himself.” The judge added, however, that the reliability of witnesses “certainly may be questioned on self-interest and credibility grounds” at a trial.
Defense attorney Martin Regan, of New Orleans, said he would challenge the ruling by seeking a writ of habeas corpus in federal court. He asked that Monday’s ruling be stayed pending that motion, but it wasn’t immediately clear whether the judge will grant the request.
Regan said he contended during a court hearing Monday that the issuance of an arrest warrant wasn’t enough for the government to honor its extradition treaty with the Netherlands. “My client is not charged with a crime,” he said. “They want to talk to him and interview him.”
Regan has argued that Curaçao is not a safe place to await trial, pointing to the recent deaths of multiple pre-trial detainees.
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