Tensas parish escapee contests extradition

Published 12:02 am Wednesday, July 18, 2012

WATERPROOF — The Tensas Parish inmate who managed to drive a stolen unmarked police car 1,800 miles before being arrested has extended his Maine vacation by at least three weeks after he contested his extradition back to Louisiana.

Benjamin Gottke, 43, made his initial court appearance Monday in Houlton, Maine, and requested a formal extradition hearing, Aroostook County Assistant District Attorney Kurt Kafferlin said.

During that hearing, the judge will examine documents from the state of Louisiana, such as arrest warrants and other previous records, to move the formal request for extradition along.

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Gottke’s extradition hearing will be Aug. 7 in Houlton Superior Court.

Tensas Parish Sheriff Rickey Jones said his office will apply for a governor’s warrant in order to ensure Gottke be returned to Louisiana to face trial on his charges.

Kafferlin said Tensas Parish officials must get Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal to request the governor’s warrant from Maine Gov. Paul LePage.

“If that request is successfully granted, our governor would issue a governor’s warrant and the suspect would be arrested on that warrant,” Kafferlin said. “With that warrant, the burden of proof would be on him to show that he is not the person in that arrest warrant.”

Jones said requesting a governor’s warrant is a first for him, but something that is necessary to guarantee Gottke be tried in a Louisiana court.

“I’ve had other states have some fugitives here that we had to do governor’s warrants for, but I’ve never had to request one for our inmate,” Jones said. “He’s probably in fear of receiving a harsh penalty for what he’s done.”

Gottke was working as a trustee in the Tensas Parish Sheriff’s Office kitchen last week, when he managed to acquire keys to a backup unmarked police car and escaped from the jail.

From Waterproof, La., Gottke managed to drive the police car 1,800 miles in two days to Houlton, Maine, until arriving at the Houlton port of entry at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

Gottke was heading North on I-95 toward Canada, but turned around in a “no-man’s-land” between the two ports. Gottke then wound up in the lane coming back into the United States, and he was stalled after U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers asked for identification.

After fleeing authorities at the entry port, U.S. Border Patrol agents located the vehicle an hour later abandoned at a local gas station.

Houlton Police Department officers found Gottke shortly after in a downtown street and had to Taze him twice before making an arrest.

Gottke is facing charges in Maine as a fugitive from justice and resisting arrest and charges in Louisiana of simple escape and theft of a vehicle.