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2:50 PM Mon, Nov. 12th

Church of Scientology critic fights his extradition

PRESCOTT ­ Howard Keith Henson, an avid critic of the Church of Scientology, will remain in the Yavapai County Jail on a governor's warrant without bond at least until noon Monday.

By then, his attorney, Michael Kielsky, must file a petition for a writ of habeas corpus, which would grant the defendant another court hearing at 10 a.m. on May 18. The petition would mandate the court to examine whether Henson's imprisonment is lawful.

If Kielsky doesn't file the petition, Yavapai County Superior Court Judge Thomas Lindberg authorized California authorities to take Henson to Riverside County to serve his one-year sentence.

Henson has been on the run from California authorities since his April 2001 misdemeanor conviction which stems from threats he made against the Church of Scientology.

In absentia, a judge sentenced him to one year in jail. Rather than serving the term, Henson went to Canada to seek political asylum. When it became apparent that he might not get it, he left Canada for Prescott, where he had lived in previous years. On Feb. 2, a Prescott police detective arrested Henson on a California warrant.

On Wednesday, Kielsky tried to convince Lindberg to release Henson on bond. He alleged numerous violations that violations his client since his arrest.

He said Arizona law requires police to get a warrant before they can arrest a misdemeanor fugitive if his sentence does not exceed one year.

If the police arrest him without a warrant, then the defendant must appear before a judge with "all practicable speed," Kielsky said.

Kielsky said after he filed a motion in late April, a deputy Yavapai County Attorney failed to tell him that Gov. Janet Napolitano had issued a warrant for Henson's arrest. She filed a copy of the warrant with the response to Kielsky's motion, which he did not receive until after another court hearing on Tuesday.

"I was blindsided because of it and was unable to properly represent him," Kielsky said, calling the prosecutor's actions "deliberate or grossly negligent."

He also questioned the documents that Riverside County officials sent to Arizona, implying that he does not believe Henson is the same person they are looking for.

"The fugitive they are seeking was arrested on

July 19, 2000, on felony charges," Kielsky said.

Deputy Yavapai County Attorney Ethan Wolfinger said no questions exist about Henson's identity because he has posted the facts of his case on his Web site.

"We are here for extradition and the State of California wants him for whatever reason," Wolfinger said, objecting to any further delay in Henson's extradition.

After the hearing, Wolfinger said the governor's warrant supersedes the claims that Kielsky made about the arrest. The paperwork on Henson's identity also is clear.

"He was convicted in 2001 on a misdemeanor use of threats charge," he said. "Nobody is accusing him of being convicted of a felony."

A copy of the response and the warrant went to another Phoenix lawyer that had nothing to do with the case, Wolfinger said. He said he was unsure how the mix up happened.

Wolfinger said Henson has no grounds to challenge his California conviction in Arizona because of the Uniformed Extradition Act.

"That's the whole purpose of the act. States don't want other states questioning their criminal decisions," Wolfinger said.

Contact the reporter at mburic@prescottaz.com