• 9 Investigates high cost of extraditing those accused of petty crimes back to Orange County


    ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Tax dollars are used to bring people back to Orlando to face crimes they're accused of.
    But Channel 9's Lori Brown learned that many of those who are extradited back to Orange County are only accused of minor crimes, like writing bad checks or not returning library books.
    Linda Davidson was extradited from St. Louis.
    "Nov. 18, 2008, two detectives knocked on my door in St. Louis," Davidson said.
    Davidson said that is the day that destroyed her life, as she knew it.
    "They said, 'We have a warrant for your arrest out of Florida.' I actually laughed and said, 'No, you don't.'"
    But they did have a warrant, based on a check written in 1985 in the amount of $74.13, according to Davidson.
    Davidson was flown to Orlando.
    "I was in jail for 137 days," she said.
    She said when she was released she had no way to get home, so she went to a homeless shelter.
    "All the things I had in St. Louis, I lost everything. So I basically had to start my life over at age 55," Davidson said.
    She said it took her a year to overcome homelessness.
    "When you go to jail and get out, there's shame," she said.
    In another case last fall, 52-year-old Heidi Abt was extradited from Long Beach, Calif., because of a stolen library book.
    The book, "To Change the World," cost $27.93.
    "It's a huge amount of money involved for both sides, public expense and personal expense for a library book that was recovered," said Ninth Circuit Public Defender Bob Wesley.
    "They're such small cases that we're going to spend dollars for nickels," said Wesley.
    Wesley wants to set up a formula for extradition that would take into account the severity of the offense, the age and condition of the defendant and his or her distance from Orlando.

    "If a person is 2,800 miles away in California, they are not a threat to people in Orange County, Florida," said Wesley.
    State Attorney Jeff Ashton's office decided to extradite Abt because she had three other petty theft cases, making the stolen library book a felony.        
    The Orange County Library System's assistant manager requested prosecution.
    Linda Davidson has the same question her judge asked when he heard her case.
    "He said, "How many lives is the State of Florida going to destroy like this?'" Davidson said.
    Orange County spent $280,000 to extradite 372 people from out of state last year.
    Abt's extradition for the stolen library book cost $1,500.
    Jeff Ashton declined to be interviewed for this story.

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