Darien’s Hapgood tells U.K. publication he’s not fleeing British justice
In what appears to be his first interview with a U.K. publication, Darien’s Scott Hapgood and his wife Kallie detailed the ordeal in Anguilla last April that resulted in him now being called a fugitive from that country’s justice system.
The 45-year-old Darien man faces a manslaughter charge in the killing of an Anguillan hotel worker, during a violent struggle while he was on a family vacation in April. After attending all of his court dates up until November, Hapgood made the decision not to return, citing safety concerns.
According to Hapgood, a New York investment banker, the hotel worker, Kenny Mitchel, 27, pulled a knife and demanded money. They fought and crashed onto the floor.
“A hotel employee appeared at their ocean-view suite, saying he had come to fix a sink. What happened next in room 49 of the Malliouhana resort in Anguilla last April, in front of Hapgood’s terrified daughters, is in dispute. But the 6ft 2in former American football player is now a fugitive from justice,” the Times reported.
The Sunday Times said that Hapgood pinned down the smaller man and refused to release him when other hotel employees appeared. He feared that they were all in cahoots, not realizing that Mitchel was dying. After police arrived, he was arrested and charged with manslaughter, they wrote.
“The adrenaline is pumping. I’ve never been in an experience like that before,” he said. “Plus the shock that my life and my daughters’ lives are at risk despite being at what we thought was a very safe place,” he told The Times.
The November court appearance was a preliminary inquiry and the judge could have revoked Hapgood’s bail, sending him to an Anguillan jail possibly until the case is resolved. As Anguilla is a U.K. territory, that country would have to request Hapgood’s extradition.
The initial cause of death for Mitchell cited asphyxiation. However, a revised autopsy reported by the New York Times in October said based on toxicology tests, Mitchell died from a lethal dose of cocaine and not from injuries he sustained in the fight.
Following his decision, Anguilla’s state attorney Dwight D. Horsford issued a statement saying that Hapgood’s fears for his safety were groundless and that a bench warrant would be pursued.
“In consequence of this willful defiance of the High Court Order, a bench warrant will be sought from the High Court Judge for his arrest. When this is shortly obtained this will be circulated through Interpol to police forces around the world. The bail bond of EC$200,000.00 has been forfeited. Other formal processes will now commence regarding Hapgood who is now a fugitive,” Horsford said.
“Hapgood’s decision to abscond will not allow him to evade justice,” he said.
Despite those comments, Hapgood has not been listed in International Criminal Police Organizations (Interpol)’s most wanted person’s list.
Kallie Hapgood told The Times, “We’d planned this dream vacation and on the second night my husband is in jail.”
She said she was optimistic that of course they were going to get through it because, she said, “we did nothing wrong.’”
Hapgood said the experience in jail caused him to consider suicide given threats from inmates, including relatives of Mitchell, who he said worked there.
“I didn’t think I was going to make bail, or make it through the night, realistically, and I’d rather [die] on my own terms,” he said.
Hapgood was originally held at Her Majesty’s Prison in Anguilla when he was denied bail. But he was later released on bond after his attorney appealed to the High Court, sparking outrage among residents on the island. The judge who denied Hapgood’s bail in April was also scheduled to preside over November’s hearing.
“The scandal of it is the completely unaccountable process that has created a fugitive of this man,” said Juliya Arbisman, Hapgood’s lawyer, told The Times. “Everybody in the UK should be outraged that this has happened in a British overseas territory. Ultimately Anguilla, at the highest levels, is staffed with UK appointees, who obviously have an interest in a fair trial here.”
The Hapgood family isn’t entirely convinced of their safety even at home. Late last year, their spokesman released an example of a threatening voicemail he had received.
Since November, an attorney for Kenny Mitchell has filed a suit on behalf of his family against Scott Hapgood. The lawsuit, filed in US District Court, seeks $75,000 in compensatory and punitive damages, saying that the death has created a loss of income for Mitchel’s family and minor child.
This month, the Hapgood family has sued the hotel company at which they stayed, saying they were negligent in the incident. They claim Auberge Resorts was negligent in the hiring and supervision of Michel who died on April 13 after a confrontation with Hapgood in a room at the Malliouhana Resort, which is owned by the company.
What happens next will depend on the extradition treaty the United Kingdom has with the United States, since Anguilla is a British Territory, said Raymond Levites, a former U.S. Attorney in New York who now has a private practice specializing in criminal and international law.
Some countries won't extradite residents, or will consider whether the person has been properly charged and there is "some semblance" of due process in the country that is seeking the extradition, Levites said in November.
But in general, nations with the treaty will "respect the legal processes of the other country," Levites said.
"The only thing that it will guarantee is that the extradition and the warrant are looked at more closely," he said. But if Hapgood resists, the extradition process could take years, he said.
Hapgood has been publicly supported by local and state officials and even President Donald Trump, who tweeted he would be looking into the case after Kallie Hapgood appeared on Fox Network.