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Federal Escape Statute of Limitations Not Triggered Until Return to Custody

Naturalized U.S. citizen and federal prisoner Guillermo Gonzalez appealed his 2006 escape conviction, arguing that the district court failed to instruct the jury on the statute of limitations for escape. His conviction was affirmed.

While serving an eight year sentence for a "walk away" escape and larceny, Gonzalez escaped from federal custody in Minnesota and fled back to the Dominican Republic. Twenty years later, after a medical visit in the U.S. as a Vietnam veteran, he was arrested and charged with escape when he returned to the Dominican Republic and attempted to acquire U.S. citizenship for his children at the U.S. embassy.

Gonzalez was sentenced to one year and one day to run consecutive to his outstanding sentence. He appealed, claiming that the jury should have been instructed that the statute of limitations for escape under 18 U.S.C. § 3282 was five years. He claimed that he made a "bona fide" attempt to surrender by entering the embassy and subsequently meeting with FBI agents.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, in a case of first impression, held that Gonzalez failed to provide any evidence of his alleged surrender attempt and that 18 U.S.C. § 3290 provides that "No statute of limitations shall extend to any person fleeing from justice." The appellate court further ruled that since no statute of limitations was triggered, no duty existed for the jury instruction. See: United States v. Gonzalez, 495 F.3d 577 (8th Cir. 2007), cert. denied.

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