Belmopan businessman, Osman Eliasar Correa, 48, is wanted in the US for an incident that occurred over 20 years ago. He is accused of causing the death of 2 and injuring 4 others in a traffic collision. An extradition hearing started today for Correa before Chief Magistrate, Jayani Wegodapola in Court #1, where more than 90 pages of evidence has been admitted against him.
BELIZE CITY, Wed. Nov. 29, 2023
A Belizean national, who up to 1998 had been living in Texas, USA, and who is believed to have absconded while out on bail for a charge of intoxication manslaughter, is being sought by the USA to stand trial.
Osmar Eliasar Correa, 48, is wanted in the US for intoxicated manslaughter stemming from an incident in 1998, more than 20 years ago.
Reports are that Correa had been driving a vehicle that collided with an ambulance in Texas in the U.S. which caused the death of one occupant of that ambulance as well as of one of Correa’s passengers.
Allegations are that Correa was driving in one direction and the ambulance was heading in the opposite direction when Correa swerved into the lane of the ambulance, causing a head-on collision which resulted in the death of one of his (Correa’s) passengers, as well as the passenger in the ambulance, and injuring four other persons.
This morning, the substantive evidence in an extradition hearing against Correa kicked off before the Chief Magistrate, Jayani Wegodapola, in Court #1 in the Belize City Magistrate’s Court at their Coney Drive building in Belize City.
The State/Crown is being represented by the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) herself, Cheryl Lynn-Vidal, and Stacy Martinez, Senior Crown Counsel at the AG’s Ministry; while Correa is being represented by attorney Bryan Neal.
This morning, the State called its main witness, Idelso Leslie, a Foreign Service Officer at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In his testimony, Leslie identified for the court a document bundle of over 90 pages, which he claimed are the documents prepared by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs requesting the extradition of Correa.
According to Leslie, the extradition bundle was received by the Ministry office on January 14, 2022.
After the Ministry received the documents, according to Leslie, he prepared a memo (which is part of the procedure), which was later submitted to the Attorney General’s Ministry on the said date.
Before the application was made to tender the documents into evidence, Leslie told the court that the documents bear the signature of the Ambassador of Belize to the USA, Lynn Young, with which he is very much familiar. The documents also bear ribbons and seals, which is consistent with the procedure of the U.S. Department of State, with a gold ribbon on it and a red seal from the Department of Justice of the United States on the left side.
Leslie concluded by saying that the documents which form the bundle are related to the request by the US Government for the extradition of Osmar Eliasar Correa.
According to Leslie, the Ambassador’s signature is seen on the cover page of the bundle; while on the second page the gold ribbon, which is an identifier of the State Department of the US, has the signature of Mark Pompeo, the then US Secretary of State; while on the third page, the red ribbon bears the signature of Jefferson Session, the then Attorney General of the United States.
And after Leslie positively identified the documents, and DPP Cheryl Lynn Vidal made an application asking the court to tender the documents into evidence, which was accepted by the court, the attorney for Correa then began to question the integrity of the documents accepted into evidence by the court.
Attorney Bryan Neal, although he had no objection to the bundle of documents being tendered into evidence, instead questioned the integrity of the 90-plus pages admitted into evidence.
Attorney Neal asked Leslie if he could remember the exact date and year when Ambassador Young became Ambassador. Leslie said “no”, but he was confident that it was in 2021, just that he could not give a precise month.
Attorney Neal then went on to question whether there was a chain of custody in the handling of the documents when they were sent to Leslie’s office,
Leslie said that he didn’t recall who handed him the documents; but he claimed it was one of the officers from the Registry Department of the Foreign Ministry.
When questioned about the chain of custody in the handling of the documents, Leslie told the court that the envelope in which the documents came would have its destination and place of origin (marked) on it, but he could not say what happened to that envelope, or if it was torn up or discarded, and by whom, because he was not the one who discarded it.
Leslie also acknowledged that it wasn’t he who reviewed the documents personally.
When Neal then asked him if the documents in the exhibit were photocopies, Leslie responded that he believed that the documents were photocopies.
That’s when the DPP, Cheryl Lynn Vidal, informed the court that the documents are certified as original copies because the originals are kept in the US, hence the reason for the authentication.
The extradition hearing is expected to continue on January 25, 2024; meanwhile, the State is to submit their written arguments by December 22, 2023, and Neal is to reply to the State by January 22, 2024, before the matter is once again before the court.
After being granted bail through a US court about twenty years ago, Correa absconded from the USA.
It was not until 2018 that an FBI agent assigned to his case located Correa, who was using another name on his Facebook page.
It has been reported that Correa departed from the USA leaving behind a wife, and came to Belize and started a new life.
In 2022, under the guidance of the then Chief Magistrate, Sharon Fraser, who issued a warrant for the apprehension of Correa, he later applied for bail in the Lower Court, but was denied.
He then applied for High Court bail and was also denied bail, and has been on remand since his arrest in Belize.
Tonight, Correa remains on remand without bail.
Osmar Eliasar Correa has been living in Belize for over 20 years and has a wife and children here. He claimed he is a businessman of the Belmopan area who makes and repairs furniture.
Belize has had an extradition treaty with the US since 2001. The request was sent pursuant to the treaty.