America at Night Files


FILE #28
Hirschfeld Bails Out of Spanish Jail

In 1997, Richard Hirschfeld was released on bail from a Spanish jail which had been holding him while considering an extradition request from the United States government. The May 30, 1997 Virginian-Pilot story about Hirschfeld's release is shown below.


DATE: Friday, May 30, 1997 TAG: 9705300688

Richard Hirschfeld, a former Virginia Beach lawyer who was being held in Spain on federal fugitive charges, has been freed on bail.
Hirschfeld was released while Spanish authorities consider whether to extradite him to the U.S. on charges he tried to defraud a federal judge. Apparently, the Spanish court must determine whether the alleged acts - writing fraudulent letters to the judge from prison in order to obtain early parole - are extraditable under Spanish law.
Hirschfeld fled to Spain in December, asking for political asylum from federal officials he says have a political vendetta against him.
Federal prosecutor David Barger was expecting Hirschfeld to be extradited this summer, he recently told a judge. The extradition has now been delayed indefinitely, the Justice Department said Thursday.
Spanish authorities arrested Hirschfeld on the fugitive charges in January. He had been out of jail since 1995, when he was released from a U.S. prison after serving four years for tax fraud.
Hirschfeld has a long history of disputes with federal authorities, claiming charges against him stem from a vendetta by a U.S. attorney who believed Hirschfeld undermined his bid for a federal judgeship by using his influence with Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.
The extradition ruling could take weeks or months, said John Russell, a spokesman for the Justice Department. Meanwhile, Hirschfeld is free on $35,000 bail. The conditions of his bond were not available, but Hirschfeld will probably have to remain in Spain.
Hirschfeld fled to Spain after he was indicted in November, and FBI officials and prosecutors argued that he should not be released because he might flee again.
Hirschfeld is expected to be a key witness in the trial of a former cellmate arrested this month in a plot to assault a federal judge. Hirschfeld, in court papers, was also implicated in that plot.
Joseph Matthew Gaffney II is accused of trying to hire a federal inmate to assault U.S. District Court Judge J. Calvitt Clarke. The motive was purportedly in retaliation for Clarke's rulings in Hirschfeld's tangles with federal authorities.
Hirschfeld allegedly arranged the 1993 meeting of Gaffney and the inmate, during which Gaffney asked the inmate to assault Clarke by ``taking the victim's glasses off and throwing acid in the victim's eyes or breaking both legs,'' according to Gaffney's indictment, unsealed last week.
Hirschfeld was not indicted in the assault case, though his name appears in Gaffney's indictment 25 times. The indictment says the FBI believes Hirschfeld orchestrated the conspiracy against Clarke. Hirschfeld, Gaffney and the inmate were all in federal prison in Petersburg at the time.
``I just hope that he remains in Spain now that he's out of custody so I will have an opportunity to interview him, so I can best help my client,'' Gaffney's attorney, Jon Babineau, said Thursday. ``When he was in custody, I knew where he was and knew I could get to see him. Hopefully, he'll remain in Spain.''
Babineau said he had no reason to believe Hirschfeld will flee.
Babineau says Gaffney's indictment allegedly results from an elaborate scheme by Hirschfeld to retaliate against Gaffney. Babineau said he could not discuss the motive for the retaliation. ILLUSTRATION: Photo
Richard Hirschfeld had asked Spain for political asylum from officials he says have a political vendetta against him.