HONOLULU - The Dog remains unleashed - for now. Attorneys for TV reality star Duane "Dog" Chapman on Friday said the Mexican federal court has granted them an order that halts the criminal case against Chapman until further evidence and witness testimony are gathered.
U.S. Marshals arrested Chapman here on Sept. 14 along with his son Leland and another associate after Mexico issued a warrant because of his capture of fugitive convicted rapist Andrew Luster, the Max Factor heir, on June 18, 2003, in Puerto Vallarta. Bounty hunting is considered a crime in Mexico.
Chapman was released on $300,000 bail after spending a night in a federal detention center. He and his crew have been facing extradition to Mexico since then.
At a circus-like news conference Friday, the star of the popular A&E show "Dog the Bounty Hunter" said the "tide is changing a little bit." His side of the story, he said, is finally being told to the court through his lawyer, William Boller, who spent the past month in Mexico.
"If it comes out right, would I do it again? You damn right," Chapman said.
The possible extradition has ignited an uproar among members of Congress and Chapman's fans, who consider him a hero for capturing a rapist and doing a job the government could not. Twenty-nine congressmen have sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asking her to deny the extradition.
At the press conference, Chapman said Mexico is becoming a safe haven for American fugitives and killers.
"These guys know where to run. Where can we go so the Dog can't catch us?" said Chapman, wearing a powder-blue dress shirt with rolled-up sleeves, black jeans, cowboy boots, a big silver bulldog belt buckle, a Rolex watch and mirrored Oakley sunglasses. He was not wearing an electronic monitoring ankle bracelet that a judge agreed this week to remove.
After the press conference, Chapman, 53, spoke with The Associated Press and reflected on his legal and personal challenges since his arrest.
"I'm too old to be traumatized, but it's right next to that. It's just incredible," he said.
The man who considers himself the best bounty hunter in the world said he still has nightmares about federal marshals banging down his door as well as the night he spent locked up.
"Jails are truly man-made hells," he said.
Chapman believed he was working within Mexican laws by having a local police officer supervising the hunt for Luster. Chapman said also that he left Mexico in 2003 and didn't return for a scheduled court hearing based on the advice of an attorney there.
After he left, Chapman said Friday, he was threatened by the attorney with additional legal problems in Mexico if he didn't wire him "hundreds of thousands of dollars."
Chapman's capture of Luster, who had fled the United States during his trial on charges he raped three women, catapulted the bounty hunter to fame and led to the reality series on A&E, the network's highest-rated series ever. Luster is serving a 124-year prison term.