News and Press Releases

Prior long-Time federal fugitive back in custody after absconding in

January 11, 2011

United States Attorney Kenneth J. Gonzales and United States Marshal Conrad Candelaria announced that long-time federal fugitive Robert Widdowson, 65, is back in federal custody in the District of New Mexico after absconding from the jurisdiction in March 1992. Widdowson, who was indicted on various federal narcotics offenses in 1988, appeared before United States Magistrate Judge Alan C. Torgerson this morning and was ordered temporarily detained pending a detention hearing scheduled for January 19, 2011.

United States Marshal Candelaria said that Widdowson was taken into custody by the United States Marshals Service in Houston, Texas on December 14, 2010 after he was deported from Belize by Belize authorities. Court records reflect that Widdowson appeared before the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas in Houston on December 16, 2010. There, Widdowson waived identity and detention hearings in Texas and, instead, agreed to be transported to the New Mexico by the United States Marshals Service.

Widdowson, then a 43-year old resident of Austin, Texas, was indicted on November 10, 1988 based charges that he was manufacturing and trafficking illegal drugs in Taos County. Specifically, the four-count indictment charged Widdowson with (i) conspiring to manufacture N-hydroxy 3, 4-Methylenedioxyamphetamine, a designer hallucinogenic drug more commonly referred to as “Ecstasy”; (ii) possession of Ecstacy with intent to distribute; (iii) maintaining an establishment to manufacture Ecstacy; and (iv) distribution of Ecstasy. If convicted of any of the charges, Widdowson faces up to twenty years imprisonment and a maximum $1,000,000 fine.

Widdowson was detained pending trial from the date of his arrest in November 1988 until March 1989 when the late United States District Judge Santiago Campos dismissed the indictment after finding that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) lacked the authority to designate the drugs at issue in the indictment as illegal or restricted because Congress had specifically delegated that authority to the United States Attorney General. Upon entry of this dismissal order, Judge Campos set conditions of release for Widdowson during the pendency of the United States’ appeal. After the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed the order dismissing the indictment, the United States sought further review by the United States Supreme Court. The indictment was reinstated in November 1991, after the Supreme Court ruled in a case with similar facts that the DEA’s actions were constitutional and vacated the Tenth Circuit’s order affirming dismissal of the indictment in this case. The case against Widdowson proceeded until March 1992 when a warrant for Widdowson’s arrest issued after he absconded from pretrial supervision. With Widdowson back in New Mexico, the prosecution against him will now proceed in the usual manner.

This case was investigated by the DEA with assistance from the United States Marshals Service, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Presiliano Torrez, the prosecutor who handled the case when it was indicted twenty-three years ago.

United States Attorney Gonzales reminds the public that charges in indictments are only accusations, and that criminal defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

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