While House Democrats consider their version of a presidential whodunit, Donald Trump has another mystery on his mind. An American tourist finds himself indicted for manslaughter in the British territory of Anguilla after a bizarre set of events on a family vacation. Scott Hapgood claims self-defense but authorities there seem intent on trying him.
“I’ve see Trump help Americans in peril around the world,” Kallie Hapgood told Fox & Friends while pleading for his intervention. “I’ve seen him do amazing things for Americans, and Scott Hapgood is the type of American that you want to help.” And that just happened to be the one venue guaranteed to get Trump’s attention:
Although Kallie Hapgood noted that the State Department has already been supporting the Hapgoods, Trump responded on Twitter that he would take a personal interest in resolving the issue. Based on the Fox & Friends segment, Trump has already expressed his skepticism about the prosecutors’ case:
Will be looking into the Scott Hapgood case, and the Island of Anguilla. Something looks and sounds very wrong. I know Anguilla will want to see this case be properly and justly resolved! @foxandfriends @SteveDucey @ainsleyearhardt
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 14, 2019
Until now the Hapgood case has not drawn a large amount of attention, but that’s changing rapidly. The New York Post offers a brief primer after Trump’s comments, including the results of the toxicology report:
Hapgood has told authorities he killed the resort worker in self-defense during the family’s trip to the tiny tropical island six months ago, after the man showed up to their hotel room in a drug-fueled craze, whipped out a knife and demanded money.
Hapgood, a 44-year-old dad of three from Darien, was charged with manslaughter and freed on bail, angering some residents on the isle. …
A toxicology report showed that the worker died from a lethal amount of cocaine in his system.
That wasn’t quite what the coroner ruled as the cause of death. The toxicology report was part of the final ruling, but Kenny Mitchel died from “due to prone restraint, positional asphyxia and blunt force trauma to the head, neck and torso.” However, the toxicology report tends to substantiate the Hapgoods’ description of the man’s behavior, which also seems to comport with his previous record. The NY Post reported over the weekend that the supposed victim had been in custody for an alleged violent attack on his former girlfriend earlier this year:
After meeting her daughter in the lobby, once Kallie was reunited with her husband back in Room 49 and saw what had happened between Hapgood and the hotel worker — the details of which she declined to discuss with The Post, citing the ongoing criminal case — she “begged” hotel staff to call the police.
When they finally did arrive, after what seemed like hours, a female officer relayed an ominous message that has stuck with Kallie as her distrust for island authorities has grown over the past six months.
“She looked at me and said, ‘We know him. He is a bad guy. He was just in our custody,’” Kallie said.
Once Mitchel’s death was made public, reports surfaced that he was arrested and accused of raping the mother of his children, Emily Garlick, in March. Garlick later claimed it was a misunderstanding.
Considering the charges against Mitchel, which were pending at the time of his death, “I don’t understand why the hotel thought it was OK for him to be around my children or me and my family,” Kallie said.
The toxicology report and the man’s previous track record would tend to produce copious amounts of reasonable doubt about whether Hapgood was defending himself and his family, even apart from the injuries he sustained — at least in an American courtroom. Anguilla shouldn’t be that much different; it is a British territory, using the English common law that serves as a basis for our own. Either the Hapgoods and the US media that have covered this story are leaving out significant portions of the case, which is very much a possibility in this kind of a PR campaign, or the case really does look “very wrong.”
What can Trump do about it? He could press Anguilla and the UK to drop the case, but the UK has another case they want to discuss with Trump in return. Boris Johnson just got done scolding Trump publicly for his refusal thus far to revoke Anne Sacoolas’ diplomatic immunity and return her to the UK in a vehicular-homicide case:
Asked about the case this afternoon, Mr Johnson said invoking diplomatic immunity in the case was ‘inappropriate’.
‘In my experience, America is very, very reluctant to allow its nationals to be tried overseas, and is absolutely ruthless in enforcing the code of diplomatic immunity,’ he said.
‘I must say, I don’t think it was appropriate for that provision to be used in this case.
‘I made that point to the president, and he is sympathetic.
‘I think we’ve just got to keep working on that and see what we can do to get justice for Harry Dunn and his family.’
Sacoolas has finally apologized for the accident, but the victim’s family says the time for apologies have passed:
“Anne would like to meet with Mr. Dunn’s parents so that she can express her deepest sympathies and apologies for this tragic accident,” said the statement released through her attorney. …
Speaking from Heathrow Airport, Dunn’s mother, Charlotte Charles, said that she was “very, very open” to meeting with Sacoolas. But, she added, “Sorry just doesn’t cut it.”
“It’s not really quite enough,” she said.
The two cases might leave Trump stuck in a tough trade. He might just hope that his interest in the case forces prosecutors to re-evaluate whether they want to pursue Hapgood at all.
If Trump does succeed in extricating the Hapgoods from this situation, it will no doubt redound to his favor politically, at least briefly. Will it be enough to deflect his other case from its one-way track to impeachment? Naah, but it will give Trump’s supporters plenty of reason to also talk about how they’ve “seen him do amazing things for Americans.”