A Swiss woman whose testimony helped federal authorities expose the French connection heroin smuggling operation in the 1960s was rushed to New York early yesterday for return to Switzerland after her 14-year fight against extradition failed.
Josette Bauer, 45, has been described as the Patty Hearst of Switzerland because of the notoriety of her case and the lengthy legal battle surrounding it. The Swiss wanted her returned because she escaped from prison while serving a sentence for complicity in murdering her wealthy father.
To her lawyer and supporters, however, Bauer's extradition represents a betrayal of the word of the U.S. government, and they say they believe one factor was Switzerland's role in helping free the American hostages in Iran.
After being arrested in Miami in 1967 on a heroin smuggling charge, Bauer agreed to testify against members of the French-Corsican heroin ring in return for a promise that she would serve only a short prison term and not be returned to Switzerland, because she feared she would be killed by the drug smugglers.
Bauer's story is a bizarre case that reached the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals three times and had a series of federal judges literally forcing the State and Justice Departments to plead with the Swiss to withdraw the extradition request.
Last October, however, a Fifth Circuit panel agreed that the government had made its "best efforts" to persuade the Swiss. "We could do no more than respect the terms of the extradition treaty," the court said.
In its Oct. 10 opinion, the court noted the Swiss role in the hostage negotiations in Iran, and said it could not "conclude that the case of Josette Bauer must take precedence over the other important friendly and cooperative relationships between the two nations involved." Bauer's attorney, William Marchiondo of Albuquerque, said yesterday that he felt the decision "was a political, not a legal, decision. It was an abomination."
Bauer said in a telephone interview from the Metropolitan Correction Center in New York yesterday, "I feel like I have been cheated of the last fight. I didn't even have a chance to appeal to the State Department."
William Earle, a Miami lawyer who negotiated the plea bargain for the Justice Department in 1967, yesterday said the extradition order was "a tragedy." He acknowledged that the State Department felt the agreement went beyond Justice's authority.