Argentina / USA: Facebook, jurisdiction arguments in kidnapping case


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A federal prosecutor raised concerns about recent Facebook posts by a man accused of kidnapping his own son 12 years ago, claiming that he has continued to make threats against FBI agents investigating the case.

Juan Carlos Ruffier appeared in federal court Friday morning for a detention hearing in connection with the 2005 kidnapping of his then-3-year-old son and for allegedly threatening to kill an FBI agent.

FBI El Paso Division agents arrested Ruffier at the Paso Del Norte port of entry on Monday, officials said. He allegedly hid the boy from his ex-wife in Juárez, Argentina and Paraguay for about 12 years.

He is charged with one count each of international parental kidnapping and threatening a federal officer. He also faces two counts each of interstate communications — threats and obstructing justice by retaliating against a witness, victim or informant, according to an indictment.

Ruffier’s defense lawyers Manuel Acosta-Rivera and Reginaldo Trejo requested the detention hearing be pushed back to give them more time to prepare their case.

Federal prosecutor Debra Kanof objected, arguing that defense lawyers never told her they weren’t ready to proceed and had even flown in an FBI agent from Florida to testify.

After some back on forth from both parties, U.S. Magistrate Judge Anne T. Berton granted the motion for a continuance and reset the detention hearing for Wednesday.

Argentina, Facebook and Jay J. Armes

One of the biggest points of contention between Kanof and defense lawyers was the case’s jurisdiction.

supreme-court

Defense lawyers claimed that Ruffier was prosecuted in Argentina on the same kidnapping charge and therefore should not be tried in the Western District of Texas.

Details on the Argentina case were not clear Friday.

Kanof argued that any case against Ruffier in Argentina did not impact the charges he faces in the United States, saying that both are sovereign states. She argued that Ruffier could face charges in both countries without double jeopardy coming into play.

Kanof said that Ruffier hired “expensive” El Paso investigator Jay J. Armes to “find and stalk” one of the victims in the case. The victim was not named during the hearing.

Armes, who was at the hearing, later confirmed he was working pro bono for the defense team.

Defense lawyers did not address the accusations about Armes during the hearing.

Kanof also cited several Facebook posts by Ruffier, including one posted hours before his arrest.

e58“Bueno amigos … Llego la hora. A la guerra!” the post read. “Well friends … The time has come. To war!”

“He posted that he is going to war. This shows that he is continuing to make threats,” Kanof argued.

The post has several replies from Ruffier’s friends, including one with a derogatory message toward Kanof.

Acosta-Rivera said after the hearing that he looks forward to proving Ruffier’s innocence.

“We believe he is not guilty and we are working to prove that,” Acosta-Rivera said.

The alleged kidnapping occurred in 2005 after Ruffier divorced the boys mother, Olga Ruffier, according to court documents. During a visitation that year, Juan Ruffier allegedly noticed bruises on the boy and refused to return him to the mother.

Over the 12 years, Juan Ruffier fled to Juarez, Argentina and Paraguay in an attempt to hide the boy from his mother, according to court documents.

Juan Ruffier also allegedly threatened to assault and kill an FBI agent investigating the case in February 2006, and made a threat against the agent in a text message to his second wife, Wenda Lee Ferrell, court documents state.

Ferrell was also allegedly threatened by Juan Ruffier on May 2, 2006, for providing information to federal agents, court documents state.

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