Rep. Chris Smith Working To Bring NJ Cop Killer, Others To Justice

As part of National Police Week, Rep. Chris Smith together with Rep. Bill Pascrell today introduced two pieces of legislation that would further the extradition of US fugitives—including notorious New Jersey cop-killer Joanne Chesimard and convicted felon George Wright, as well as New York terrorist William Morales—and others who have fled the United States in an attempt to evade justice.

The Smith-Pascrell legislation has already won the support of the National Association of Police Organizations and the Fraternal Order of Police and has been cosponsored by Reps. Michael McCaul (R-TX), María Elvira Salazar (R-FL), Tom Kean, Jr. (R-NJ), Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Carlos Gimenez (R-FL).

The Walter Patterson and Werner Foerster Justice and Extradition Act would require the Executive Branch to report to Congress on the number of fugitives that the US government is seeking to extradite, the efforts it has undertaken to secure their return, how often those efforts are successful and any factors that have prevented the return of particularly egregious criminals. The bill is named in honor of the two New Jersey men who were murdered by Wright and Chesimard, respectively.

“Despite some efforts, our government has failed to bring back either Joanne Chesimard or George Wright who brutally murdered two New Jersey residents—a State Trooper and a gas station owner—escaped from state prisons, and simply moved abroad, where they live with no consequences or accountability and taunt the surviving relatives and friends of the people they killed,” said Rep. Smith, who introduced the bill in previous Congresses and had the legislation marked up by the House Global Human Rights Subcommittee in 2016.

“Any justice system can only endure where the guilty are held to account for their bad acts – without exception,” said Rep. Pascrell. “Joanne Chesimard and George Wright are criminals who have not faced the consequences of their actions, which is why we need to seek their punishment. A regular report on criminals hiding beyond our borders will add urgency to these cases and keep both Congress and the American people aware of those still at large. And it will pointedly remind the criminals who have cowardly fled our nation that the arm of American law is long and our memory without limit. I thank Congressman Smith for his advocacy here.”

“These two murderers and many others like them have run from justice for far too long,” said Smith. “This critical legislation will enable us to properly assess the actions taken across various federal agencies, reevaluate our efforts and ultimately make policy changes aimed at bringing back these criminals who have fled the US justice system. The surviving family members and friends of the victims deserve no less.”

Victim Walter Patterson—a decorated World War II veteran and Bronze Star recipient—was murdered by Wright during a robbery of his Wall, NJ gas station on November 23, 1962. After his conviction, Wright escaped from the Leesburg State Prison in 1970 and later hijacked a plane to flee the country. Decades later in 2011, FBI investigator R.J. Gallagher found Wright living in a coastal resort area in Portugal—but the Portuguese government refuses to extradite him.

Victim Werner Foerster—a New Jersey State Trooper—was murdered execution-style by Chesimard on the NJ Turnpike on May 2, 1973. Chesimard, who was convicted of first-degree murder, escaped from a state prison near Clifton in 1979 and made her way to Cuba, which has since supported her at the Cuban government’s expense.

A resolution also introduced by Smith and Pascrell would call on the Cuban government—which has a track record for providing safe harbor for US fugitives—to extradite Chesimard in addition to William Morales and other US criminals who are living in the country.

Morales, the leader and chief bomb-maker for a terrorist organization, committed numerous attacks in New York that killed 5 people and injured over 60 other victims before escaping from the Bellevue Hospital prison ward in New York and fleeing to Mexico. He was eventually handed over to Cuban authorities and is believed to be in Cuba

“Justice delayed in justice denied,” said Smith. “It is long past time that the communist Cuban government extradite the more than 70 fugitives—especially and including Joanne Chesimard and William Morales—who are receiving safe harbor in Cuba, so they can be held accountable for the crimes they have committed against innocent US citizens.”

“For 44 years, Joanne Chesimard has evaded accountability for her terrible crime by hiding in the arms of the tyrannical Cuban regime,” said Pascrell. “Her cowardly flight to Cuba has denied the family of Trooper Werner Foerster justice for his tragic murder. We have not forgotten. Her extradition, and the extradition of criminals overseas, must remain a priority every day for our government. Chesimard and other criminals hiding beyond our borders must live in fear and know that America will not rest until they are brought back to face justice.”

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