Commission on Security & Cooperation in Europe:
U.S. Helsinki Commission
“Justice in the International Extradition System:
The Case of George Wright and Beyond”
Committee Members Present:
Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ);
Representative Steve Cohen (D-TN)
Ann Patterson, Daughter of Walter Patterson;
R. J. Gallagher, Retired FBI Special Agent;
Jonathan Winer, Senior Director, APCO Worldwide, Washington, D.C., and former
U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Law Enforcement
The Hearing Was Held at 2:00 p.m. EDT in Room 2203,
Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C.,
Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ), Chairing
Date: Wednesday, July 11, 2012
REPRESENTATIVE CHRIS SMITH (R-NJ): The commission will come to order. And I
want to thank and welcome all of you to this very important hearing of the
commission on security and cooperation in Europe.
In September of 2011, hopes were raised high when the FBI announced that George
Wright, a fugitive for over 41 years, had been located in Portugal and had been
taken into custody pursuant to a provisional arrest from the United States –
request from the United States. There were hopes for accountability, some
justice and, for the family he murdered in Wall Township in 1962, for at least
some closure to a nightmare.
In 1963 George Wright was convicted in connection with a gas station robbery,
during which Walter Patterson, a decorated World War II veteran and Bronze Star
recipient – and that’s him in that picture, obviously – was beaten and shot to
death. Wright was subsequently sentenced to 15 to 30 years, but in 1970
escaped from Leesburg State Prison, now renamed Bayside State Prison, located
in New Jersey. In 1972 he and four other men hijacked a Detroit-to-Miami
flight. They flew the plane to Algeria, where Algerian authorities allowed
them to disappear.
In 1976 four of the hijackers were located and arrested in France. France
refused to extradite them to the United States, but tried them in France
instead. Following convictions, two of the hijackers spent a mere three years
in prison, and two others spent two and a half years. George Wright, however,
was not among those caught. For 41 years George Wright's whereabouts were
unknown, and he built a life built on lies and deception.
When George Wright was located in Portugal last year, the Patterson family
naturally thought that, as convicted felon and prison escapee, he would be
speedily returned to the United States to finish serving the sentence he
received for the murder of Walter Patterson. Portugal, after all, is a close
ally, committed to the rule of law and a long-standing extradition agreement
with the United States. Shockingly, a Portuguese court rejected the United
States' extradition request last November, and efforts to reverse that decision
have now apparently ceased. The Patterson family, so deeply wounded by the
murder of their beloved family member and then by the murderer’s escape – and
now are bewildered and angry at Portugal's refusal to extradite George Wright.
Today's hearing will examine what happened in this case – and it is the first
in a series – and what can be done to promptly return Wright to an American
prison and the broader question it raises about the international extradition
On behalf of the commission, I welcome Ann Patterson, Walter Patterson’s
daughter, who along with her family have suffered irreparable harm from the
brutal violence committed against her beloved father by George Wright. Words
are inadequate to convey my and the commission’s abiding respect, empathy and
condolences to you and your family on your excruciating loss and my
disappointment, which I share with you, in Portugal.
Ann will testify in part that the $70 that George Wright and Walter McGhee
stole wasn’t enough. They had to beat my father, she says, beyond recognition.
George Wright was identified by the imprints of the stock of his gun on my
father’s skin, she’ll tell us. Her testimony is riveting. Her testimony opens
up and gives us an insight into the enormous pain that she and the family have
The commission will also hear from R J. Gallagher, a retired FBI agent who has
done extensive work on the case, breakthrough work on the case, and has had an
extraordinary career with the FBI. So we thank you, the commission, for your
service on behalf of all Americans for the wonderful law enforcement work you
have done over the course of your lifetime.
Finally, we will hear from Jonathan Winer, a senior director of APCO Worldwide,
Washington, D.C., and former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for
international law enforcement. And also, he worked for 10 years for Senator
Currie and has been tenacious working on law enforcement issues, particularly
On George Wright, Mr. Winer exposes the utter indefensibility of the Portuguese
court's decision not to extradite George Wright; why Portugal can still do the
right thing by revoking his citizenship, which he secured through immigration
fraud; and how the U.S. can and must pursue Wright through INTERPOL and many
other very important recommendations that I hope that the State Department, the
Justice Department, Congress, all of us take to heart.
Finally, let me note that the commission had requested a representative of the
Obama administration to be here to answer questions of what has and what can be
done to bring George Wright to justice. The commission was informed that Bruce
Swartz, deputy assistant attorney general of the Criminal Division of the
Department of Justice, wasn’t available for today’s hearing. So on behalf of
the commission, I will reissue our request for Mr. Swartz or any other
appropriate official from the administration to testify at a subsequent hearing.
In like manner, the commission invited the Portuguese ambassador, Nuno Brito,
who was also unavailable due to a scheduling conflict. And like with Mr.
Swartz or whoever the administration would like to send, the commission will
request Ambassador Brito’s testimony at a follow-up hearing that will be
scheduled around his availability as well.
Again, I’d like to now turn to my good friend and colleague Mr. Cohen and ask
for any opening comments that he might have.
REPRESENTATIVE STEVE COHEN (D-TN): Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I’m interested in hearing the testimony of the witnesses. And to Ms.
Patterson, I express my regrets. It’s been a long time, but to lose your
husband – and the person who commits such a crime should be held responsible.
And what he did in escaping and hijacking that plane is reprehensible as well.
There is – reading the record, there’s obviously some positions that the
Portuguese government is taking that seems to be adverse to what I think is
common sense in international law and Helsinki Commission accords. And I hope
that we can get to the bottom of the situation. But that what he did to your
husband is an offense, and air piracy and hijacking, all of which should be
extradition offenses. And the Portuguese government, I believe – don’t want to
pre-judge it, but I believe – should extradite him so that he answers for the
crimes he has committed and the harm that he’s done.
So I look forward to the testimony and appreciate Mr. Smith bringing this
hearing, as he always does. And this is bipartisanship. While the Obama
administration may not be here, I assure you that it’s not because they’re not
interested and this is bipartisan and that we’re concerned about it as well.
Thank you, and I yield back the balance of my time.
REP. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Cohen, for your comments.
And I’d like to now introduce our witnesses, beginning first with Ann
Patterson. And you know, when we asked how she would like to be described, she
just said daughter of Walter Patterson. And frankly, that is enough, you know,
a woman who has children and grandchildren, some of whom are with us today, and
a woman, like her family, has suffered irreparable harm.
We’ll then hear from Mr. Gallagher, who I mentioned earlier is a former FBI
special agent from 1986 to 2011, retired just short of the 25 years. And he
also served as an officer for the United States Navy for five years.
And then, Jonathan, you’ll be next, if you would. And I just would point out a
couple of things from his resume. He actually was – received a distinguished
honor from the secretary of state, Madeline Albright, for his service in the
State Department. The award stated that he created the capacity of the
department and the U.S. government to deal with international crime and
criminal justice as important foreign policy functions and that, quote, “the
scope and significance of his achievements are virtually unprecedented for any
So three very, very distinguished people.
And Ann, if you could proceed.
ANN PATTERSON: Mr. Chairman, my name is Ann Patterson, and I am the daughter
of Walter Patterson. My father was robbed, brutally beaten, and shot in his
gas station in Wall Township, New Jersey, on November 23rd, 1962. He died of
his injuries on November 25th, 1962. I was 14 years old, and my sister Kaye
My father was a quiet, sensitive person. The gas station was his American
dream, and he was so happy to be able to have his own business. He worked 16-
to 18-hour days to support our family. Daddy's name is also on the Patterson
honor roll of soldiers, part of a family that has fought in all our country's
wars. At age 21, he went to Europe and served our country for four years
during World War II. He was a TEC 5 and a truck driver/mechanic and was
awarded the Bronze Star for meritorious service.
It was the day after Thanksgiving, and Daddy had come home for supper. It was
about 4:30 when he got into his truck to go back to work. I stood at the
kitchen window waving goodbye, and that was the last time I saw him alive.
About five hours later the phone rang, and I answered it. Aunt Jennie said,
Walt's been shot, and I screamed, no, no, no, and called my mother to the
phone. I was crying, told my sister, and she started crying.
My mother was not well. She called Uncle Charles to take her to the hospital.
When she got there, she couldn't recognize my father. She later told us they
had beaten him to a pulp. The doctor operated from about 10:30 p.m. to 6:30
a.m. and told my mother he thought he had gotten all the bone fragments. When
I asked her what Daddy had to say, she told me that he couldn't talk because
his jaw was wired shut. He was wild with pain and could not be given anything
for it since he had head injuries. He had to be restrained in the bed. The
doctor told my mother that seizures were to be expected with this type of
injury, and Daddy had a seizure on Saturday night.
Kaye and I had been scared to death to stay home alone on Friday night, so we
rode to the hospital with Uncle Dick and Aunt Ginny as they took my mother to
see Daddy on Saturday night. Aunt Ginny asked my mother if she had told us
what we were going to see, but my mother did not allow us to see Daddy, and we
waited in the car. Daddy was in critical condition, and no one except
immediate family was allowed in. The doctor told my mother that if Daddy came
through this, he would be a vegetable and need a lot of care.
On Sunday evening the doctor was talking to my mother in the hallway about my
father's condition when the nurse came to them and told them he had passed
away. They allowed my mother to spend some time alone with him. When she came
home, Uncle Dick and Aunt Ginny were each holding her arms and helping her to
the house. I looked at Kaye, and I said, Daddy died.
The viewing was Tuesday, and the funeral home asked for a photo of Daddy so
they could make him look like the picture. Does that sound odd to you? My
father was unrecognizable in his casket. His wavy black hair with a touch of
gray was replaced with straight black hair combed back. His face was all
uneven and caked with makeup. I knew he was my Daddy by looking at his hands.
The $70 that George Wright and Walter McGhee stole wasn't enough. They had to
beat my father beyond recognition. George Wright was identified by the
imprints of the stock of his gun on my father's skin. If there had not been
such a beating, the doctors could have operated on the bullet wound to the
abdomen, and it is quite possible that Daddy would still be with us today.
For Kaye and me, the nightmare was just beginning. Since our mother was not
well, she could not take care of us. We were told later that we would be sent
to Clinton, a home for wayward girls. I later found out that Clinton was in
fact a prison for girls. There is something wrong with sending the victims to
prison while the criminals do not have to be incarcerated for their actions. I
thank God that Uncle Dick stepped in to take care of us.
Our mother was very ill with a heart condition, and her death was hastened by
losing Daddy. She passed away 15 months later on February 26, 1964, leaving
Kaye and me orphaned. In our house lived my mother's aunt and uncle, both of
whom passed away during that 15-month period. In just over a year we
experienced the deaths of all four people we lived with and lost our home. We
were robbed of normal teenage years. There was no counseling available in
1962. We were left to deal with all this sorrow on our own. We tried to be
strong for our mother while she was still alive.
It has not been easy to relive all these events during the past 10 months. The
FBI victims specialist suggested I see a counselor, which was beneficial to me.
One of the problems that came out was the nightmares that I suffered from for
years after my father's death. The counselor said that I had had
post-traumatic stress after I described the nightmares to her. I also
developed asthma and colitis within a few weeks of Daddy's death.
The premeditated actions of the four individuals involved in my father's murder
have negatively impacted five generations of the Patterson family. I have
already spoken about my parents and my sister and me. My mother's uncle who
lived with us refused food when he learned of this tragedy. He said, I don't
want to stay in a world where this is allowed to happen. And he died four
months later. My grandfather never spoke my father's name again without crying
and told me they didn't have to beat him up so bad. My father's seven
grandchildren were deprived of a loving grandfather, and they are angry at the
injustice exhibited in the past 10 months.
But the saddest to me are the hurt reactions of some of my father's 14
great-grandchildren. One of them saw the clip on TV of the capture and asked,
what is wrong with people, not knowing it was about her great-grandfather.
Another one curled up in a corner of the couch and, crying, asked if he could
escape again. Five generations of fear and hurt are five too many.
George Wright cannot erase his life of crime. He is fraudulently a Portuguese
citizen. Four aliases do not change the fact that he was born George Edward
Wright in the United States of America and committed crimes during his years
here. When he chose the crime, he also chose the punishment, as they go hand
in hand. George Wright did not give my father a choice on November 23rd, 1962,
and so he should not have a choice about not serving his sentence. He does not
owe Portugal time; he owes the United States.
George Wright is not sorry for what he did. There has been no apology to the
Patterson family. On the contrary, he has made this all about himself and
basked in the limelight. To want to profit from a book and movie highlighting
his heinous acts against the Patterson family is a slap in the face. He is not
the victim here; we are. George Wright is a convicted murderer who lived a
life of violence, then fled and lived a life of lies. Now his past has caught
up with him, and he needs to come back here and serve his sentence.
In light of all the recent media coverage, I have been approached by many
people who have expressed their disgust toward this man and this situation. I
feel it is a disgrace that our justice system has failed in assuring a proper
punishment for this crime. This whole case sets a terrible precedent for this
country, both here and worldwide. It is a negative towards decent citizens and
a positive for criminals.
The failure of extradition has affected us in the following ways: one, fear of
a known criminal on the loose; two, fear of reprisal from criminal – both of
these fears are now 50 years long – three, makes a mockery of the crime against
my father – did his life matter; four, has perpetuated our pain and loss; five,
loss of any kind of confidence in the criminal justice system, from the local
branch which gave too lenient a sentence to the state branch that put a
convicted murderer on a minimum security work farm to the federal branch who
have backed down to Portugal in the matter of extradition. The case was
dropped before the final appeal was filed. It is one thing to do all you can,
another to give up before you exhaust all avenues.
I have been asked if there are any other – I have asked if there are any other
avenues of justice such as withholding aid and have not been given any answer.
Don't we have a right to seek justice for our father? Our family has been
emotionally affected by injustice in the following ways: One, no closure –
this is still an emotionally draining, open wound; two, we have family members
and friends across this entire nation who are appalled at the injustice of
trying to obtain justice; three, we are not happy that George Wright wants to
do a book and a movie and capitalize on his inhumane treatment of our father;
four, we were extremely upset when we read in the newspaper that the final
appeal had been dropped – I was told that I would be notified of any decision
so that I wouldn't be blindsided upon learning something from the media – five,
on a personal level, this has split my family in two. Some members support
efforts to obtain justice, and some cannot emotionally face the details of this
crime to even talk about it.
What can be done? Here are my suggestions: Number one, reinstate the death
penalty for criminals convicted of heinous crimes. Such a strong penalty may
act as a deterrent. Two, put pressure on Portugal. I understand there is an
extradition treaty from 1907 to this effect. Three, do not send any financial
aid to Portugal. Four, form a committee at the state level to double-check
paper work so that errors like this can't happen again. Five, support and pass
Illinois Senator Richard Durbin's Bringing Fugitives to Justice Act. And six,
nothing that any of us say or do will bring my father back, but if we can look
ahead and help the countless number of children who are similarly affected or
will be affected by senseless crimes, then all of our efforts will not have
been done in vain.
There is no conclusion to my story. It has not occurred yet, for the
conclusion now rests in the hands of the politicians. The FBI and the U.S.
Marshals have done their job in locating this fugitive, and we thank them. I
have done all I can by telling about our family events from November 23rd to
November 25th, 1962, and the impact of this despicable crime. On behalf of the
Patterson family, I ask you to please bring justice for the untimely death of
my father, Walter Patterson. Thank you.
REP. SMITH: Ms. Patterson, thank you very much for that extraordinarily moving
testimony and the tenacity that you have brought to trying to bring this man to
justice, and for thanking the FBI and the marshal service for the extraordinary
work they’ve done in tracking him down. We need to do our job, those of us in
the executive as well as, in our case, the legislative branch. And I thank you
I’d like to now – we do have a vote on right now, but we do have some time.
Mr. Gallagher, if you could proceed with your testimony and – thank you.
R.J. GALLAGHER: Yes. Good afternoon. Good afternoon. My name is R.J.
Gallagher. I’m a retired FBI agent. And at the risk of some redundancy, I’d
like to acquaint members with the background of George Wright.
On Friday night of Thanksgiving weekend in 1962, George Wright and two others
robbed and mortally wounded Walter Patterson, a service station proprietor in
Wall Township, New Jersey. That night, Wright and his co-defendants wore nylon
stockings over their faces and wore gloves on their hands. Wright carried a
sawed-off rifle, his co-defendant a cheap handgun. They brought with them
white adhesive tape for binding of their victims. Earlier that same day,
Wright and his co-defendants had cut down the rifle, bought ammunition and had
test-fired the weapon. They also had driven around the Jersey shore area
looking for prospective places to rob.
At around 9:30 p.m. that night, when Wright and a co-defendant entered Walt
Patterson’s Esso gas station on Route 33, they were committing their second
armed robbery of the night. This robbery, the one about to take place, unlike
the first did not go as planned. For it would appear that Walt Patterson was
not sufficiently compliant or quick enough to the demands of the robbers, and a
Wright and his co-defendant repeatedly rained blows to the head and shoulders
of Walter Patterson with their weapons. At some point the handgun carried by
the co-defendant fired, and Walter Patterson was struck in the abdomen. He
fell to the floor. The two robbers fled, taking with them about $70. Both
robbers were very aware that their victim was shot and wounded, yet they left
him alone on the floor of his gas station. They did not place an anonymous
call to anyone to get Walter Patterson medical attention. Instead, using the
money proceeds from their two robberies that evening, they went out and
partied. They dined, they drank and they played pool until 2:00 or 3:00 in the
Investigation over the next two days led to the identification and arrest of
the persons involved in the robbery/murder. This included George Wright. All
the physical evidence was recovered: guns, stocking masks, gloves, ammunition.
All the arrested gave full confessions. On January 28th, 1963, Wright pled
“non vult” to a murder indictment. By this plea Wright did not contest his
guilt, and he waived his right to trial. This plea allowed Wright to receive a
30-year maximum sentence, as opposed to life had he gone to trial and been
convicted. On February 15th, 1963, Wright was sentenced to a prison term of
not less than 15 years and not more than 30 years.
At this point I'd like to just take a break from Wright's crime chronology and
state that I have read numerous – I have read in the – in numerous media
accounts subsequent to Wright’s arrest that Wright has stated that since he did
not fire the shot that killed Walter Patterson, he is not guilty of the crime
of murder. First, both of Wright’s co-defendants stated that in the immediate
aftermath of this crime, Wright told them he had fired. Nine bullets from the
sawed-off rifle Wright carried were found on the floor of the service station.
The presiding judge at the time of Wright’s sentencing went on record stating
that these nine rounds on the floor indicated Wright’s intentions to – Wright’s
intention and attempt to fire his weapon but that the weapon had malfunctioned.
But regardless of Wright’s intent, attempt or belief that he had fired or that
he had not fired, it was the law of the state of New Jersey that if a person
committing a robbery kills another or death ensues during the robbery, that
person is guilty of murder.
I have also read that there is to be some mitigation for the crime when
considering the age of George Wright, as he was 19 years old at the time. Here
it should be noted that Walter Patterson, his victim, was barely a much riper
21 when he entered the U.S. Army shortly after Pearl Harbor. Walter Patterson
then served in the Army for near four years until the war was over. Of his
time in the Army, 2 ½ years was spent over in Europe in the eastern theater of
Back to the Wright timeline: On August 22nd, 1970, Wright and others escaped
from the New Jersey State Prison. At this time Wright had served seven years,
seven months and 25 days. Wright has remained a fugitive from U.S. justice
since this date.
On July 31st, 1972, Wright and four others, to include one of the persons he
escaped with, hijacked a Delta Airlines DC-8 en route from Detroit to Miami.
The hijackers were accompanied by three of their small children. Wright was
dressed in the garb of religious clergy. Wright was the eldest and the leader
of the hijackers. He wielded a handgun, gave the orders and issued the
threats. He pointed a cocked weapon to the head of the airline pilot, Captain
William May. Once landed in Miami, Wright demanded $1 million and threatened
that if his demands were not met, he would toss bodies out of the plane.
Wright and his fellow hijackers received the million-dollar ransom, and they
released approximately 80 passengers. The flight clue (ph) was not – the
flight crew was not released and were forced to fly the plane and the hijackers
first to Boston and then on to Algiers, Algeria. Algerian authorities seized 1
million – seized the $1 million and the plane, returning them both to the U.S.
The hijackers, however, were allowed their freedom and eventually made their
way to France.
Wright and the four other adults were all indicted for air piracy in the United
States on August 3rd, 1972. While in Algeria, Wright and the other hijackers
made a videoed press statement, and as part of that statement the speaker
stated, among other things, that the hijackers were revolutionaries. In May of
1976, four of the hijackers – the lone exception being George Wright – were
arrested by French authorities for the 1972 air piracy. In 1978, France tried
these four for the air piracy, and they were all convicted of same. And so to
this day, Wright has not served his sentence for his homicide conviction, nor
has he been tried for the indicted charge of air piracy.
My involvement in this matter began in 1994 when I reopened the New Jersey
fugitive investigation regarding Wright. I worked it until my retirement in
July 2011. The United States Marshals and the New Jersey Department of
Corrections joined the investigation in approximately 2003. Since the case was
reopened, most of all the – most all the techniques used in fugitive
investigations were employed. These would include but not be limited to:
interviews, both domestic and abroad; notification to national law – to
international law enforcement; court orders; human intelligence; cooperation of
foreign law enforcement. Specifically, fingerprints, age-enhanced sketches and
computer images were produced and distributed. The United States Marshals
commissioned the making of an age-enhanced bust. All three agencies played a
vital and significant part in this investigation. And just as an aside, to my
mind it was a model of organic and ad hoc interagency cooperation.
In March of 2010 the Portuguese police notified the FBI legal attaché in Madrid
that they had positively identified the person living in Portugal under the
name of José Luis Jorge dos Santos as George Wright. This they did, unknown to
Wright, by comparison of photographs they had on file for Santos with those of
In September of 2010, six months after the positive identification, myself and
attorneys from the Department of Justice Office of International Affairs met
with Portuguese law enforcement and prosecutors in Lisbon, Portugal. The
purpose of this meeting was for the United States to seek Portuguese legal
input and to work together so that the United States might produce an
extradition request with the greatest chance of success.
I would characterize these meetings as both positive and productive. All the
parties agreed that extradition could proceed for U.S. person George Wright.
Further, there was agreement that George Wright was using a made-up name of
José Santos and had in fact provided false pedigree information to the
Portuguese government as regards to his name, place of birth and parentage.
One issue remained unresolved. Portugal saw as barrier to extradition Wright's
exposure to a 25-year sentence of incarceration for an air piracy conviction.
They viewed this as the equivalent of a death sentence, and therefore that
would serve as basis for the denial.
Moving along, well over a year had passed since the positive identification had
been made, and this issue proved to be intractable. And no extradition request
had yet to be submitted. In May of 2010, the decision was made to tender the
extradition request based solely on Wright's homicide conviction. I
participated in this decision and supported it fully. In fact, it was probably
done at my instigation; so if hindsight determines this is a bad call, I am
solely to blame.
Portuguese law enforcement arrested George Wright in September of 2011. Since
his arrest, the Portuguese courts have denied the United States extradition
request for Wright. It is my understanding they cited the following in their
ruling: One, too much time had passed, and there must be closure to criminal
cases. Two, Wright's integration into Portuguese society demanded that
extradition be denied on humanitarian grounds. Both these two reasons cited
per DOJ are not – per DOJ are just not recognized as basis for denial of
extradition per our treaty with Portugal. And third, the court found that
Wright is a Portuguese citizen. This is where the matter now stands.
Looking forward and beyond John – George Wright, each nation is free to choose
its own criteria for citizenship. This is how it is and how it should always
be. But it would seem that each nation would have self-interest in seeking an
obligation from prospective citizens seeking naturalization, for them to tell
the truth regarding their identity and any information they give the
government. This would obviously provide for the safety and security of the
nation’s own security. George Wright provided false information to Portuguese
authorities, it would seem, because if he provided his true identity, not only
would citizenship be denied but he would probably be arrested.
In August of 1972 George Wright was indicted on the criminal charge of air
piracy. If one looks at the elements of the crime Wright committed, this same
act committed today would potentially be charged as an act of terrorism. And
for such a charge, the extradition treaty between U.S. and Portugal states that
Portuguese citizens will – can and will be extradited for terrorism. I
actually could not imagine that this crime, taking place today, would not be
charged as terrorism.
And specifically with return to George Wright, I’ve seen a – numerous media
accounts post-arrest that suggest for some time he has led a good life and that
he has in fact rehabilitated. This is perhaps a valid argument, and he might
have a case for such. But there remains only one place that can decide if such
an argument is valid, and that is here in the United States where he committed
his crimes, in front of a court or a parole board of proper jurisdiction. I
would encourage George Wright to come and make his argument. Thank you.
REP. SMITH: Mr. Gallagher, thank you so very much for that very extensive
background, as well as for your work dating back to 1994. And thank you so
much for that.
I’d like to now ask Mr. Winer, if you would proceed with your testimony.
JONATHAN WINER: (Off mic.) Mr. Chairman, Mr. Cohen and honorable members of
the committee: As former deputy assistant secretary of state for international
law enforcement, I’m honored to testify, to share my views regarding the
international extradition system and options for the United States when a
foreign legal system frustrates justice. I ask that my full written statement
be placed in the record.
REP. SMITH: Without objection – (off mic).
MR. WINER: During my tenure in the State Department and since, our government
has worked to vindicate one underlying goal with regard to fugitives: to
secure their return to the United States to provide justice regardless of the
criminal’s location. I have 10 points to make about how to apply this
principle to the George Wright case and more generally.
First, the decision by the Portuguese judge to refuse Wright’s extradition to
the United States is legally indefensible under the century-old U.S.-Portuguese
extradition treaty and under the principles of extradition law internationally.
Neither the passage of time nor Wright’s citizenship through marriage provide
a legitimate basis for the Portuguese judge to deny extradition, let alone
humanitarian factors that have been asserted. This is simply legally wrong.
The statute of limitations protects people from belated prosecutions, not
fugitive escapees from prison after their convictions. It is also an abuse to
refuse to extradite a citizen of another country who’s escaped prison and only
later becomes a citizen of the country to which he’s fled. The judge’s
decision on these two issues is legally wrong, morally unjust and should be
given no respect whatsoever by any government beyond Portugal.
Two, Portuguese authorities can still do the right thing to secure justice.
Wright entered Portugal through immigration fraud, using a false name and with
a false history about his citizenship and birth. It appears these true facts
were not known to Portuguese authorities until 2010 or so. If this is correct,
Portugal could revoke his citizenship and deport him, putting him on a plane to
the United States or to another country which could turn him over to the United
Three, the U.S. can take further steps on its own to use international
institutions on this matter. George Wright is currently listed by the United
States on Interpol’s public wanted database as a fugitive. But the public
notice is notably out of date. It doesn’t list his current name, address or
other current personal details. This was as of yesterday. This new detailed
data could all be provided to Interpol by the United States and made publicly
available to every citizen of the world. The U.S. could ask Europol, Europe’s
police institution, to track him down and to arrest him if he ventures beyond
Portugal. And FBI legal attachés could make the same request with their EU
Four, the U.S. has a reward program for the rendition of important fugitives.
One part of that’s administered by my former bureau, the Bureau of
International Narcotics and Law Enforcement. The State Department could issue
a reward for information or other assistance that secures the return of Wright
to the United States. A reward might lead to a citizen’s arrest in which
people grab him and put Wright into U.S. custody. This approach has been
upheld by the Supreme Court. Indeed, the Justice Department’s internal
procedures expressly allow the use of bounty hunters and rewards.
Fifth, the U.S. can itself use lures to entice a criminal fugitive to leave a
foreign country so he and – or she can be arrested in international waters or
airspace, or (brought ?) the United States or in a third country for subsequent
extradition, expulsion or deportation. There are a wide range of possibilities
for lures potentially applicable to Wright. How will he know whether a book
agent or movie agent is real and intends to help him publicize his life, or is
actually an agent of the United States? I hope he has a lot of trouble making
that distinction in the days to come.
Sixth, the United States could undertake an extraordinary rendition, in which
U.S. government officials take direct action to capture a terrorist – which
Wright was – such as snatching Wright as he’s going about his day-to-day
business, smuggling him into a car and then to a boat, and then bringing him to
the United States to face justice. Notably, the use of such techniques risks
significant protests on the part of a foreign government such as Portugal and
can chill the bilateral relationship. This happened when we did it in a very
important case in Mexico. We did the right thing. The Mexicans were angry,
but it was the right thing to do after they tortured and killed a Drug
Enforcement agent – Administration agent. And it happened recently in Italy in
connection with some renditions. But we can still do it if we choose to.
Seven, the U.S. could apply terrorist economic sanctions to Wright, prohibiting
transactions with him by any U.S. person and freezing any assets he may have in
any U.S. financial institution. Now, he may not have any in any U.S. financial
institution, but foreign financial institutions often then apply these
sanctions as well to protect themselves, and it will certainly inhibit his
ability to gain any economic advantage from his life story.
As he stated publicly, he hopes to write a book about his life and secure a
film deal. U.S. imposition of terrorist sanctions against him would make it
much more difficult for him to sell the book and to profit off his crimes, and
might make it possible for profits from any of these ventures could be seized
by the United States.
Eight, the U.S. could take steps to punish Portugal for its court’s unjust
refusal to extradite Wright. Unfortunately, I believe this approach almost
certainly would be counterproductive in practice. We have all kinds of
security arrangements with Portugal. The Portuguese government did not do the
wrong thing, as near as I can tell here: A Portuguese judge did, a different
part of the – of the Portuguese government. And for that reason, were I in the
State Department, I would not support sanctions against Portugal. Regardless,
senior U.S. officials can be directed to raise this issue with Portuguese
counterparts, inviting positive steps by Portugal, such as denaturalization and
deportation, to secure justice, and I certainly hope they do that.
Nine, Congress could strengthen the executive branch's ability to analyze and
apply these tools in cases of failed extraditions, such as this one. This
could be facilitated through a congressional mandate for an annual report on
extraditions to Congress covering such issues as total extraditions by country,
number of extraditions refused, reasons for refusal of extraditions and steps
taken by the United States in response to a refused extradition. Such a report
might provide for further focused attention on these issues by both the
executive branch and by Congress, thereby facilitating the goal of securing
justice for all.
I understand any administration might resist putting such information in one
place publicly in order to protect confidential intelligence, diplomatic and
law enforcement programs, activities and relationships. For this reason,
Congress may wish to consider structuring any such mandate to provide for a
public report that delivers statistical data and information with a – in
classified – publicly, with information on certain matters in a classified
Finally – and I know you’re facing a vote – we’re OK? OK. Finally, the U.S.
should not give up on this case simply because an extradition has failed. A
fugitive may be able to run, but should never be permitted to hide. George
Wright has expressed his relief at not being returned to the United States to
serve out his prison sentence, and being allowed to spend the remainder of his
life with his wife and his grown children, while profiting off his crimes by
writing a book about them and seeking a film deal. Walter Patterson and his
entire family have been denied such pleasures and their fundamental human
rights by Wright and his own personally-chosen criminal acts.
In this case, and in other cases like this, U.S. policy and the actions our
government takes must make sure that murderers and terrorists, wherever
located, can never breathe the sigh of relief that they have reached safety as
a result of outlasting law and justice.
Which of the options I have outlined should be taken in this case will depend
on careful judgments by those in the U.S. government with the most knowledge of
the facts about what steps will be mostly likely to actually succeed to secure
justice here. The committee may contribute to that process further through
ongoing dialogue with those who have those responsibilities, including sending
specific questions to relevant components of the U.S. government about their
intended actions on this case now that extradition has failed.
I am available to respond to any questions you may have, and thank you.
REP. SMITH: Thank you so much, Mr. Winer. Let me just ask you, if I could,
first, of your 10 points, what points, if any, have been pursued by the Justice
Department or by State?
MR. WINER: Based on the public record, it does not appear any steps other than
the extradition – Mr. Gallagher may have more information than I do – and
that’s one reason why further inquiry from the committee may be of value.
REP. SMITH: Mr. Gallagher, are you aware of any other efforts made besides
MR. GALLAGHER: No, I am not. I’m – as of my retirement, I’m no longer in the
REP. SMITH: OK. Again, I would – we had asked that the administration be
here. Due to a scheduling conflict they’re not, but we will ask that question
and many others in open hearing, as well as by way of letter.
MR. WINER: Mr. Chairman, Mr. Schwartz at the Justice Department is a person
I’ve worked with in the past for whom I have the highest possible regard for
his integrity, competence, diligence, creativity, imagination, knowledge. And
I think that working with him on this matter would be as fruitful as it could
possibly be, in light of his institutional responsibilities.
REP. SMITH: Knowing what you know, having worked as a DAS – deputy assistant
secretary – for law – international law enforcement, is the decision made at
his level, or would it be made at a higher level?
MR. WINER: I think the answer to that question is yes and yes, which is to say
Mr. Schwartz exercises a lot of influence – and he should: He’s a person of
great judgment and experience. In this matter and all of these kinds of
matters, the State Department has its equities; it wants to maintain a good
relationship with Portugal, which, as I said, this is a judicial decision, not
an executive branch decision; it’s going to want to think about precedent. The
Justice Department has had a lot of experience with such problems as
extraordinary rendition over the past decade, and so there will be more than
one component of a U.S. government that would likely be involved in this kind
REP. SMITH: We have heard that before. We’ve heard it recently in the case of
a child who was abducted to Brazil, and the equities were such that very little
was being done to bring David Goldman’s son, Sean, back. It was on a list of
talking points but hardly a priority. We hear it often.
It seems to me that from the Portuguese point of view, there should at least be
some consideration being given as to what this does to the other side of that
equation, and that is what Americans – what the American government, what the
Congress and hopefully what the executive branch – thinks of what appears to be
a rogue court. As you said, I think, Mr. Gallagher, so well, questions could
be asked and – but the final adjudication needs to be done here, where the
crime and the conviction and the sentencing and the incarceration were all done
in a very lawful manner and no one questions whether or not the rule of law was
followed in this case.
And yet some rogue – seemingly rogue – judge is able to do this, and there will
be repercussions, respectfully, I would say, from this side, vis-à-vis Portugal.
MR. WINER: Mr. Chairman, from my perspective, when Congress takes an interest
in an issue like this, it can motivate elements of our government to do more.
And the instincts of the government ordinarily in the executive branch is to
deal with the crisis of the day and the underlying goals of maintaining
relationships and working problems. Making this a priority is an important
part of the congressional mission and does have an impact – a positive impact –
on executive branch functionality in terms of protecting Americans. And it can
make a very big difference in strengthening the ability of the executive branch
to protect Americans, as is the case here.
REP. SMITH: And that is part of what the hope is here, that this begins an
introspection as to whether or not we’re doing all our due diligence to protect
I just came back from Bolivia just a few weeks ago on a case of a man named
Jacob Osstreicher, who has been charged with nothing, languishes in Palmasola
Prison with no charges brought against him. The welfare and whereabouts aspect
of what State has done, by the consular affairs people, is tremendous, but it
has not been raised to the level of government to government, in a way – has
not gone to the undersecretary, has not gone to the secretary or any higher. I
asked that question specifically. So we’re making, hopefully, a big deal about
that, not just for Jacob – although that should be enough – but for any other
American who is improperly and unethically incarcerated and is made to suffer.
And that, Ms. Patterson, is in part what we’re trying to do here.
One – and I think this is something that is often missed by some in government
– and that is the ongoing trauma that you and your family has experienced.
This is not over. And there are three impact statements that some of the
younger relatives, the daughters, would submit – are going to submit for the
record. As you said, five generations of traumatizing, and for this man to
remain at liberty thumbing his nose at the world, especially at your family and
at the United States, having been incarcerated.
And all the good work that was done by the FBI – Mr. Gallagher, thank you for
that tremendous work taking this up in 1994. And I’m wondering, having worked
with the Portuguese, is this a pattern? Have you detected anything that would
even suggest that this is the way the Portuguese government acts, or is this an
MR. GALLAGHER: This was my lone attempt at extradition with Portugal. But I
can say that when we met with them in Department of Justice, they were – the
law enforcement, they were the ones that, at our behest, made the positive
identification and were bending over backwards to help us, as were the
Portuguese prosecutors. And I would defer that it – to me, it looks like a
sole judge in the judiciary over there that is – that has just made a bad call.
REP. SMITH: Now, is there a higher level of court that can overrule him? Is
that in the process? And did the United States meet its timeline and – to
appeal and to try to bring this to the next level?
MR. WINER: Mr. Chairman, I don’t understand the final moments of this case, in
which we – the United States government – apparently did not do a final appeal.
I know that the office of the legal counsel at the Department of State and/or
the Office of International Affairs in the Department of Justice would most
likely have been involved in making a determination on that. Both of these
offices, in my experience, regardless of administration, Republican, Democrat,
over decades, are diligent and honorable and pay attention, first and foremost,
to the legal equities of Americans – American citizens and the U.S. government.
And while other parts of the government may have other equities, I want to
maintain a great relationship with the country of A, B or C, these offices are
very focused on those points. So it’s a factual thing to clear up with them.
I can tell you point blank Portugal and the United States have maintained over
many decades close working law enforcement as well as military security
relations that have advanced U.S. security and law enforcement – and law
enforcement goals over a long time. These are not just valued allies in a
clichéd sense; they’re valued allies in a day-to-day operational sense. And I
do not blame the country for what this judge did, just as any number of
American judges have made decisions with which I vehemently disagree and do not
REP. SMITH: Let me just – you know, this hearing is not the beginning. When
Ms. Patterson came and asked me to look into this, I got on the phone
immediately and began the process, and then knew in a timely fashion that an
appeal had to be filed. And so, you know, they certainly were on notice that –
you know, that something should have been done sooner rather than let a
deadline pass, which is again why we had hoped the Justice Department would be
here to give us a – maybe we’re missing something. I’d love to know.
MR. WINER: Congress should have an – they – Congress should have an
explanation from the executive branch on this.
REP. SMITH: Appreciate that, thank you.
Yes – (inaudible).
MR. GALLAGHER: Mr. Chairman, I’ll give you my sense of it, and that is as –
I’ve been informed that the appeal could – the department – or the Department
of Justice hired private attorneys in Portugal. And the Portuguese
prosecutors, for whatever reason – and the reason I don’t know – chose not to
go ahead with the appeal on their side. The court ruled that the private
attorneys hired by Department of Justice could not go forward on their own
without a file of appeal by the prosecutors, and that – that’s what I know. I
can’t explain it, but –
REP. SMITH: OK.
MR. WINER: Attorneys regularly, in this world, don’t think of all
contingencies, or in the – to be more blunt, screw up. And if Mr. Gallagher’s
account is correct, it may be that inadequate consideration was given by the
Justice Department to this possibility. These things can happen, and in this
case, the result is a travesty. This is unjust, this is a travesty, this is
wrong, this should be turned around and the United States government should be
taking whatever steps are appropriate to get this turned around.
REP. SMITH: Your point number eight – and I thank you for that emphatic
statement – you mention that senior U.S. officials can be directed to raise
this issue with Portuguese counterparts, inviting positive steps by Portugal
such as denaturalization and deportation to secure justice. Has that been done?
MR. WINER: I have no information as to whether it’s been done in this case.
It may well be that because the extradition process was going forward, this
option was not previously considered. It should be. If he, as every fact
seems to indicate, committed any form of fraud in Portugal that allowed him to
become a citizen, certainly under core principles of immigration law, you can
seek a denaturalization as a prelude to deportation. And this is done, it can
be done and it has been done in other cases, and it certainly should be
actively explored in this case.
If that doesn’t work, you’ve got lures, you’ve got extraordinary renditions,
you’ve got bounty hunters and rewards. Those are all options.
REP. SMITH: Mr. Gallagher, you – and it must have been agonizing to recommend
that the air piracy charges be dropped so that this conviction and – it would –
the way would be paved to bring this man back to serve for having murdered Mr.
Patterson. Could you just elaborate a little bit on how hard that had to have
been? I mean, air piracy is a – an extraordinary, an egregious crime, and yet
you saw this, you know, garnering justice in this case to trump that. You
MR. GALLAGHER: I – you’re – I can answer that in that it didn’t seem like we
were getting anywhere with respect to submitting an extradition request, and
that it was going to be denied. There’s practical law enforcement reasons in
that he’s been positively identified for close to a year and a half, and
sitting on a fugitive for a year and a half is interminable. Just the chance
that he finds out that somebody’s looking at him or for him, he could certainly
pick up that information by a chance visit to his local police station, where
they’ve been notified, hey, the guy down the road is really a U.S. fugitive, or
a chance traffic violation. So sitting a year and a half is a very long time
to do. So we sought resolution. I don’t know that the air piracy thing is
dead, but at the time, it was severed.
REP. SMITH: You – Mr. Winer pointed out that the INTERPOL information was, to
this – as of yesterday, I think you said – was out of date. That’s
unconscionable. This man is a flight risk this instant. Why couldn’t that be
MR. WINER: I was stunned to find it listed as George Wright, without a
pseudonym, to list the old information without updates, and I do not understand
REP. SMITH: How hard, Mr. Gallagher, is that to update?
MR. GALLAGHER: I know it can be updated. I hadn’t queried it recently, so –
REP. SMITH: Mr. Winer?
MR. WINER: It can be updated in an hour. It can be updated in two hours. It
should not take more than 24 hours from this hearing to be updated.
REP. SMITH: Now, is it possible that Mr. Wright, if he thought that the
Portuguese government might do something to expedite the extradition, that he
could, as we’re talking, be a flight risk or leave Portugal to go to a
MR. WINER: There are any number of things that he could do. He could go back
to Algeria, I suppose, where apparently he started out his adventure. He could
go to – where was he in Africa, Mr. Gallagher?
MR. GALLAGHER: Guinea-Bissau.
MR. WINER: Guinea-Bissau and hang out in Guinea-Bissau, if he wants to do
that. The United States could then pursue him throughout the world. Why not?
REP. SMITH: Mr. Cohen.
REP. COHEN: Thank you.
First of all, Ms. Patterson, I think I errantly referred to you as the widow
and you’re obviously the daughter, but, you know, it’s just it’s been such time
and I didn’t – wasn’t familiar with it. But I’m – appreciate your testimony.
I’m sorry. Your father was a hero, and whether he was or wasn’t, his murderer
should be – his murderer should be apprehended, particularly in light of what
he did in service to his country.
Has our State Department or anybody at the United States government contacted
you? Have you had contact with anybody in this matter recently?
MS. PATTERSON: I had – besides Congressman Smith, I had contacted Senator
Lautenberg’s office, and they had put in a couple of requests for me, and I –
and they did request from the State – the Department of Justice. And I have –
I do have copies of those letters that I will submit to the record, too. So I
did hear from the State Department. I have written a letter to Secretary of
State Clinton, and I did get a letter back from there about six months later.
So I do have those two.
REP. COHEN: And what was the response?
MS. PATTERSON: From the State Department, they were aware of it and they were
– wanted justice also. And they were going to be working on it. And from the
Department of Justice, they said that they had been advised by their lawyer not
to go for the last appeal because it would not – it wouldn’t matter; they would
still be denied. So they would be looking at other avenues also.
REP. COHEN: Mr. Winer – and I presume you’d be the right person to ask this
couple of questions. First, are there other fugitives that Portugal has
refused to extradite to our country that you’re familiar with?
MR. WINER: No, the only case that I’m familiar with is the case that’s decades
old which the U.S. refused to extradite someone to Portugal, which went all the
way up to the Supreme Court, having to do with nationality exclusions and
became a big precedent in extradition law. But this is not a pattern, to the
best of my knowledge.
REP. COHEN: And you don’t think that the judge there would have had that in
the back of his mind?
MR. WINER: No.
REP. COHEN: It’s not – it’s not a case that’s a burning issue with people.
Do you know anything about this judge and his or her history and background and
MR. WINER: I do not, sir.
REP. COHEN: No? And the judge is strictly – is – what type of judge is it?
Do you know?
MR. WINER: I do not, no.
REP. COHEN: The Portuguese judiciary, is it known to be above board?
MR. WINER: It’s considered to be independent. And like most Western European
judiciaries, it’s pretty good – imperfect, but pretty good. And again, in the
United States, there are any number of decisions that judges make that I’ve
disagreed with over the years. It’s difficult to enforce rule of law in a fair
and honorable way in all cases. Travesties occur. This is a travesty and an
REP. COHEN: Has anybody from the Portuguese government – I know it’s a
separate branch and all that – expressed in any way their concern about the
decision of the judge or any action that they might think was appropriate, or
have they been pretty moot on it?
MR. WINER: That’s a question that you would have to ask United States
government or Mrs. Patterson about.
REP. COHEN: Do either Mrs. Patterson or Mr. Gallagher know of any statement
that the government might have made, any concern or issue –
MR. GALLAGHER (?): (No, I’m not aware ?).
REP. COHEN: None at all.
Rendition’s an interesting concept. You brought it up, Mr. Winer. Who is the
– which branch of our government does this? Is it the –
MR. WINER: Renditions have been done in recent years by intelligence agencies
with involvement under some certain circumstances of the military or other
security elements of the United States government. The law enforcement
agencies take the point of view that they do not ask how someone came under
U.S. jurisdiction. That’s not important. Their role is to deal with people
once they’re under U.S. jurisdiction.
REP. COHEN: It’s a results test.
MR. WINER: Other – correct. Other components of the United States
government’s are involved in the rendition process or private citizens in
connection with rewards programs.
REP. COHEN: And this is – it’s a rare – it’s rare that this is used, to the
best of your knowledge?
MR. WINER: It was rare when I was in the government. My understanding is it
was less rare in the Bush administration during the period post-9/11. And it
appears the current administration has moved more towards the use of other
mechanisms rather than renditions to deal with terrorists. The drone program
would be one example of that.
REP. COHEN: Rendition to the – (inaudible).
MR. WINER: Rendition to another place.
REP. COHEN: Yes, yes. Indeed.
Do we – is Wright hiding out, or is he pretty open and notorious in Portugal
know? Do we know? Mr. Gallagher, do you have any idea?
MR. GALLAGHER: By all media, he’s living in the same residence and open.
REP. COHEN: So somebody could go over there and bring him to justice or
And do you know how long he’s been married, how long he’s had citizenship?
MR. GALLAGHER: No, I do not.
REP. COHEN: Yeah. This is – it’s an amazing story. I appreciate Mr. Smith
bringing this to the – to the commission. It is a terrorist act. I think I
remember this. It’s hard – it’s ’72 – I’m that old. And during that time,
there were quite a few hijackings. And we were all concerned about flying and
would you end up in Cuba. You know, a lot of them went to Cuba, but I remember
this Algeria thing and going to Miami and Boston and the whole scene, so I
guess I remember this case. And it did make people leery of flying, and it’s
certainly a terrorist act and something that shouldn’t just be forgotten about.
I mean, we should find justice.
I’ve been in the – I’m proud to be a member of the Judiciary Committee, as well
as this commission. But in the Judiciary Committee under Chairman John Conyers
we did a lot of successful legislation to see that perpetrators of civil rights
crimes were brought to justice, even though the – many years had transpired
since the crime had been committed. And I think in those – all those
circumstances, the perpetrators should be brought to justice, for the crime
they did was against society. And in this situation, it’s the same. And I
don’t think – I don’t find the judge’s decision that there’s any kind of a
lapse, a breach – because a time should work, latches shouldn’t be applied,
statute of limitations or anything like that. And we should take a position
that we get involved.
So I’d like to plan to join with Mr. Smith. I did not have the opportunity to
do it in the past. But if he does another entreaty to the State Department –
and I feel confident that he will – I would like to join with him in that, and
whenever we do so, it is bipartisan. And I believe that we should continue
action to see that this gentleman is brought to justice, because what he’s done
was wrong to your family, it was wrong to the United States of America and is
wrong to the justice system. So I appreciate the hearing, the testimony, and I
regret what you and I presume these – are these granddaughters here?
MS. : (Off mic.)
REP. COHEN: Well, I’m sorry about – you had a great grandfather, and your
mother’s doing a great job to remember that legacy. We should never forget the
legacy. We should always remember and try to find justice. You know, in the
Jewish religion, the Holocaust, never forget, and you don’t forget your family.
REP. SMITH: Well, thank you. And we will work together on requesting
additional actions by the State Department and Justice Department.
Let me ask, I – we have three impact statements, and I know – and without
naming each person – because I know that that’s a concern – I would like if any
of the granddaughter – or daughters, I should say, would like to – and
granddaughter – say a word or two or a paragraph from their impact statement,
the entire statement will be put in the record.
And while you’re thinking about the – for a moment, Mr. Winer, you made a very
excellent point about Congress’ strength and the executive branch’s ability to
analyze and apply these tools in cases of failed extraditions, and you proposed
that we get a report – and we will follow up with some legislation pursuant to
your excellent recommendation that would cover total extraditions by countries,
number of extraditions refused, reason for refusal of extraditions and steps
taken by the U.S. in response. And that’s the one that we would really look
forward to – in response to a refused extradition. We don’t have the data. We
don’t get the information. There’s a – you know, a lack of compiling it, and I
think your recommendation is a good one. Thank you for that.
Would anyone like to say a word, please?
No need to say your name.
MS. : (Inaudible.) Should I read the whole thing or – OK.
I am not sure I will ever know the full impact of never meeting my grandfather
Walter Patterson, but I can speculate how things could have been. I imagine
that he would have spent time with his grandchildren as we grew up, visiting
us, playing with us, spending holidays with us or going to our weddings,
meeting his great-grandchildren. I am sure he would have told us his war
stories and life adventures, but we will never know his story as told by Walter
If my grandfather hadn’t been murdered, I think my grandmother would have lived
longer to enjoy the abovementioned activities with her grandchildren. George
Wright took both of them away from us. Even though George Wright denies firing
shots, it was not a bullet that killed my grandfather. He died from severe
head trauma, trauma inflicted on my grandfather by George Wright. Beating a
man who was a decorated World War II veteran while he was doing – while he was
down is a cowardly act. It’s time for George Wright to grow up and be a man
and face punishment for the violent, disgusting crime he committed. Wright
chose his actions. Now he needs to pay the price for them.
One of the biggest impacts of living without my grandfather was financial
hardship. He was a gas station owner who probably would have had financial
security to pass along to my mother. Instead, she had her father and all that
he had to offer taken away. My mother had to start with nothing, therefore
times were extremely difficult for us as we grew up. I started babysitting and
taking care of neighbors’ pets when I was in 5th grade to earn some money. I
used that money to buy a car. As soon as I was old enough to drive, I went to
work after school each day and on weekends to pay for car insurance, gas and
clothes. If I needed something, I knew I had to pay for it.
After high school, I had to work two jobs while going to college full-time. I
had to pay my own tuition. I had to pay for my own wedding. My parents simply
didn’t have the means to help their children with these things. If my
grandfather had been alive, he could have watched us when we were little so my
mom could have gone to work to help out financially. My parents did the best
they could just to put food on the table for us. My dad hunted, so we ate a
lot of venison. There were no extras or luxury items. We wore hand-me-downs
and were taught to be happy with what we had. My parents wouldn’t have needed
to struggle if my grandfather had been there to help. My grandfather wasn’t
here to help due to George Wright’s senseless crime.
Whatever happened in the hospital when my mom went to see her father as he was
dying caused her to not be able to go to hospitals anymore. She has 11
grandchildren – 12 now – that she was unable to see when they were born, not
until they came home. My daughter was in a special care nursery for 10 days
when she was born. Luckily, she was OK, but my mom may have never seen her
granddaughter alive. I split my head open as a child and had to wait for a
ride to the hospital to get stiches because my mom couldn’t take me to the
hospital and my dad was at work. He worked as many hours as he could just to
make ends meet.
It is difficult to speculate how things would have been if my grandfather
hadn’t been murdered, but his presence could have only made life easier and
better for all of us. George Wright turned my mother’s life upside down, and
five generations of the Patterson family have been negatively affected. Wright
has lived a full life, while my grandfather’s life was senselessly taken away.
Wright should be thankful for the time he has had with his family. At least he
has the opportunity to say goodbye to his wife and kids as he leaves to serves
his sentence. My grandfather wasn’t given that courtesy. George Wright’s fate
is a result of his own choices and actions. My grandfather was an innocent man
trying to make an honest living. He fought for our country and for our
freedom. In return, he was beaten to death by George Wright. Please provide
justice for my grandfather Walter Patterson, and extradite George Wright to the
United States to finish serving his sentence for the brutal beating and murder
of my grandfather. Thank you for your time and consideration.
MS. : Thank you. “Get away with murder.” To some it’s just an
expression, but to others a reality. Forty-nine years ago, a little girl of 14
years old received a horrifying phone call. On the other end was a distraught
family member calling to notify a woman that her husband (sic) had been
brutally attacked and shot. The 14-year-old was the recipient of this message
and was told nothing except: Walt’s been shot. Walter was her father, who two
days later had vanished from her life forever. It sounds like a movie or
storyline for a perfect mystery book series. To my family and myself, it’s the
harsh reality of the world we live in.
My mother is that 14-year-old girl, and Walter Patterson is the grandfather I
never met. From what I understand and conclude from stories told, he was a
hardworking family man. He had risked his life in the U.S. Army fighting for
the freedom of the people and the country in which we reside. Going to battle
and sustaining injuries during combat isn’t what took him from his family. It
was the appalling choice of some of the very Americans he was fighting for. It
was a moment that would change the lives of many people.
On the night of November 23, 1962, Walter Patterson was working at a gas
station he ran. It was an innocent night’s work, and he was making a living to
provide for his family who consisted of a wife and two young daughters. When a
car of four individuals pulled around the back of the shop, an average workday
would soon take a turn for the worst. Little did my grandfather known he’d
soon be faced with individuals garbed with stockings on their heads and
equipped with guns in their hands. What began as a robbery ended in murder.
The individuals who set out with the intentions of – with the intentions of
killing had succeeded. Luckily, our justice system had been victorious in
apprehending these individuals and convicting them for the crime they
committed. Walter Patterson can’t be brought back to watch his two daughters
blow out their birthday candles, hang Christmas lights with his family or carve
the Thanksgiving turkey. He would never be able to participate in
daddy-daughter dances, walk his daughters down the aisle on their wedding day
or enjoy the births of their children. But at least the creatures responsible
for this would pay for what they’ve done – or would they?
Seven years of a prison sentence was apparently all that one of these cowards,
a man by the name of George Wright, could handle. As if choosing to
participate in a murder wasn’t enough of a poor choice, his life of crime
wouldn’t stop there. Mr. Wright had the brilliant idea to steal the prison
warden’s car to make his great escape.
Being a criminal obviously came easy to this individual, because his
law-breaking actions didn’t stop there. What does a convicted murderer do
after he breaks out of prison? Well, this particular criminal chose to expand
his criminal record by hijacking a passenger plane, putting yet more lives at
risk and making a mockery of the FBI. He managed to collect $1 million in
ransom money, which he demanded be delivered by FBI agents in their underwear
or swimsuits. One would think that if this murderer to be caught, he’d really
be in serious trouble with all these actions he carried out.
For many years George Wright lived his life. He even got married and had a
family of his own. Were the images of a beaten and shot man ever present in
his mind? Did he ever think about the lives of those family members that were
torn apart on that day that he chose to act like a man of no feelings or regard
for human life? When he was counting his illegally obtained million dollars,
was he picturing two young girls standing over a coffin painfully watching
their young, brave father be buried? Was he thinking of the young single
mother who was left to deal with her newly broken family? I doubt it. And
George Wright was actually running like a coward while conspiring about how he
would be able to live the good life himself. No conscience, remorse or regret
has ever been evident by this individual’s actions. He must have felt he had
something to hide, proven by the fact that he illegally and unofficially
changed his name and remained in a country half a world away from where he
destroyed Walter Patterson and his family.
Forty-one years have passed by. After diligent searching and a refusal to put
this case file back in the file cabinet, the FBI was hopeful that they had
found this murderer and fugitive. That 14-year-old girl who received that
devastating phone call is now 63 years old and has received yet another phone
call regarding the murder of her father. Only this time, the phone call was of
a positive nature. The news of this armed robber, murderer, prison escapee,
plane hijacker and fraud being caught seemed surreal. After all these years,
this man will finally pay the price for the crimes he chose to committee.
The life of Walter Patterson can’t be brought back. Knowing that justice will
be served and that George Wright literally won’t get away with murder will help
to close the door on this devastating chapter of Walter Patterson’s family’s
Protecting and hiding a known convicted criminal is considered a crime in
itself. Portugal, the place in which George Wright chose to flee to and hide
out at, like the coward he is, chose to protect him by refusing extradition.
How can an average individual be punished for hiding out a criminal, yet here
you have the government of a country harboring this fugitive and getting away
When this news hit our family, many emotions were felt. The feelings of anger,
sadness and frustration are overwhelming. A convicted killer and fugitive has
been caught but is being protected from the law. The rationale is now that he
is a Portuguese citizen and therefore they feel the need to protect him. Never
mind the fact that Walter Patterson had no protection from this individual’s
hands, but in hindsight, is George Wright even a legitimate Portuguese citizen?
He used criminal acts to access the country and used a fraudulent family
background and name to obtain his so-called citizenship. George Wright has not
become a Portuguese citizen, but rather the pseudo-individual he created has.
One would think the government would want to rid their country of crime and
corruption, but Portugal is protecting an individual who has brought these
things to them.
Portugal isn’t the only country to blame for this monster having the ability to
move on with his life as if his hands were not a murder weapon at one time, as
if his own mind didn’t tell him to commit the various crimes of a hateful,
malicious monster. The very country that Walter Patterson received numerous
medals for protecting, it’s contributing to George Wright literally getting
away with murder. The country in which immigrants travel far and wide to reach
to obtain a better life for themselves, our very own United States of America,
has given up on one of its own. The decision has been made that a human life
that was taken illegally by the hands of another isn’t worth pursuing justice
for. Members of our attorney general’s office has – have decided that no more
appeals are necessary in the attempt to extradite this convicted murderer so
justice can be served. It would be very interesting to see if the same
decision would be made if the individual who was prematurely buried carried one
of their last names.
This war veteran fought for the freedom of citizens of the United States. The
government was unable to protect him from George Wright while he was still
alive. The least that the United States could do is return the fight that he
gave and express the need to have this man brought back to where this crime was
In public schools across the nation, hundreds of students and staff proudly
recite the Pledge of Allegiance. It would be reassuring to know that these
aren’t just words but actually have true meaning, and that our country stands
by the last line of this pledge. If nothing else, this country should have the
ambition to send a message that the United States is just that: united. Thank
REP. SMITH: Thank you. Remarkable words and convictions, heart, courage from
three remarkable women. Mr. Patterson would be so proud. We will continue our
efforts diligently. The hearing’s adjourned.