Hunting at Embassies

Photo of Embassy row in DC

Scott MacLean

In the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, we have some strange obstacles. Like those that interact with Indian Reservations, Embassies are the sovereign territory of the country they represent. It does not matter that the embassy is in the United States, it is their country.

I had a bondsman come to me with a problem that he needed resolved, but he provided stipulations. The defendant had jumped on a $60,000 bond and I was not allowed to contact the indemnitor. He offered $6,000, I countered with $10,000, based on the restrictions. Those old school guys reading this know right away why there were stipulations. The indemnitor had paid the bond off, and if they were made aware that the bondsman had obtained a refund, they would want their money back.

This bondsman and I had a significant history that was very profitable to me. He even told me once that he writes bonds that he never would have touched, prior to meeting me. This made no sense to me. If you want to take the 10% to write the bond, pay your fees and expenses, then give it to me, I am good with it. I was never good at math anyway! We made an agreement that whatever I did to get his refund, I earned my money, but the court had to refund him prior to him paying me. We have had proposition bets before, where he was insistent that I could not resolve his issue in a certain way, so we would bet the fee, double or nothing, this was not one of those deals!

It is well known that some people commit nefarious acts under the protection of diplomatic status. They commit these acts personally or at arm’s length, but they profit regardless of the specifics. The understanding is that if someone is caught, they will be protected by their benefactor, provided they do not talk. In this case, the defendant kept his mouth shut and was rewarded. The indemnitor was employed at the Nigerian Embassy, with full diplomatic status. Database searches showed the defendant at the Nigerian Embassy. What do we do now?

I called the State Department, obtained 4 pages of legal pad notes while I was bounced around from department to department, until I contacted a person who took me to school. The defendant was in fact listed as a secretary at the Nigerian Embassy but had no diplomatic status. This means he was not afforded the protections of diplomatic immunity, but the grounds of the embassy were still sovereign territory. Then she explained the principle of the Diplomatic Envelope. I had never heard of this before. In short, it allows a diplomatic entity to grant diplomatic status to one of their own and gives them five days to inform the State Department of their actions. I asked what the significance of the five days was. The State Department official told of an incident where a diplomat driving under the influence in Georgetown, Washington, D.C., had hit and killed a pedestrian on the side walk. This happened over the July 4th holiday weekend. The five days allows them to protect their people by not reporting the conference of diplomatic status prior to the incident, until Tuesday, the first business day after the holiday. Further, that if we apprehended the defendant, who they were clearly aware of his drug trafficking charges and failure to appear warrant, they had the opportunity to invoke this privilege.

What does this mean to me? If we successfully found this defendant outside of the protection of his embassy, and they invoked the diplomatic envelope, everything we did, and everything that law enforcement did in serving the warrant, would have to be reversed. That means the records would be erased, the warrant would have to be reissued, and we would have no proof of our apprehension. Wow, what a racket!

I took my legal pad of notes to the State’s Attorney and explained my tale of woe. She proceeded to call the lady I had spoken with at the State Department, who curtly explained that everything I had relayed to her was accurate, obviously not happy with having to explain it twice! She was as befuddled as I was. The State’s Attorney asked what she should do. I offered what I considered a viable solution. Since there was nothing more that we could do, the bond should be refunded in full. However, I would call and have the defendant’s information added to the “No Fly List” to harass the crap out of him! She was happy with he solution and wrote the order of exoneration and full refund up and gave me a copy. I walked across the street and dropped it on the bondsman’s desk. Isn’t it funny that they are really happy when you are actively working their case, right up until they have to write the check, then you would think you kicked their dog!

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