Delays in securing the necessary warrant allowed a convicted child molester who was wanted by Canadian authorities to live in South Lake Tahoe for nearly a year before he was arrested this week.
South Lake Tahoe Police and U.S. Marshals arrested James William Robertson, 71, at his Lakeland Village home early Friday morning, hours after an international warrant was issued for his arrest, said Police Chief Brian Uhler.
Robertson was released from Canadian custody in 2010 after serving a five-year sentence for indecent assault, common assault and sexual assault, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The crimes involved children and took place between 1965 and 1988.
Canadian police issued a warrant for Robertson’s arrest in April 2010 after he allegedly failed to meet reporting requirements. Robertson is considered violent, and Canadian police recommended against the public taking action to apprehend him.
He was in the custody of U.S. Marshals Friday and could not be reached for comment. It is unknown if he has an attorney.
South Lake Tahoe Police have been aware Robertson was living in the city since October 2010, but were unable to secure the necessary warrant for his arrest until late Thursday, Uhler said.
The warrant issued by Canadian police in 2010 was valid and extraditable for all of Canada, but not the U.S., Uhler said.
Robertson is a citizen of both Canada and the U.S. His dual citizenship complicated the extradition process, said Hans Uthe, El Dorado County assistant district attorney.
U.S. immigration officials were unable to deport Robertson because he is a citizen, and violations of California’s sex offender registration requirements could not be pursued, Uthe said. The state’s sex offender laws do not apply to people convicted of a sex crime in a foreign country, Uthe said.
“It became 100 percent clear that we could not get him into custody until we got a Canadian warrant,” Uthe said.
South Lake Tahoe detectives were in regular contact with Canadian authorities in an attempt to get the necessary warrant for his arrest. Several requests for an international arrest warrant were rejected by Canadian officials, Uhler said.
The amount of time it took to bring Robertson into custody was “unacceptable,” Uhler said.
“We were all very fed up with the delay,” Uhler said.
Uthe was reluctant to criticize the extradition process Friday, but did say he thought it could have been done better. People who were aware of the situation were “very concerned about his presence in our community,” Uthe said.
Requests for comment to representatives of the Canada Department of Justice were not immediately returned Friday afternoon.
The South Lake Tahoe Police Department, El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, FBI, U.S. Marshals Service and U.S. Office of International Affairs each helped in expediting the extradition process, Uhler said.
Detective Doug Sentell and Special Agent Chris Campion were “instrumental in getting the warrant through the lengthy international warrant process,” Uhler said.
Uthe said he expects to meet with El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson in an effort to have California legislators require people who are convicted of a sex crime in a foreign country to comply with state’s sex offender registration requirements.
Both Uthe and Uhler said they do not have evidence that Robertson broke any U.S. law while living in South Lake Tahoe.
Robertson is a licensed attorney in California. Uthe said he plans to provide information to the State Bar of California regarding his Canadian conviction. He said he expects Robertson to be disbarred.
This article was written by Adam Jensen and published by the Nevada Appeal on October 2, 2011.
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