‘My life may possibly be in jeopardy’

Rosie
Rosie Gillingham
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American fugitive expresses concern for his safety at HMP

John Joseph Banville

An American fugitive wanted on charges of sexually assa-ulting an 11-year-old girl in Alabama told a St. John’s judge he fears for his life behind bars.

“I’d like to request a bail hearing,” John Joseph Banville said Wednesday in Newfoundland Supreme Court. “I feel my life may possibly be in jeopardy.”

Justice Robert Hall seemed to sympathize with Banville and told him that protective mechanisms are available at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary (HMP). The judge instructed the sheriff’s officers in the courtroom to inform HMP staff of Banville’s safety concerns.

“In fact,” Hall said, “I would order that there be an investigation into this.”

Banville was arrested Sept. 20 on Swan Street in Placentia, where he was living near an elementary school.

The 65-year-old is wanted in Morgan County in Alabama on charges of sexual assault of a minor, sexual exploitation and failing to register as a sex offender in that state, all stemming from 2006.

During the investigation, police discovered Banville — a registered sex offender in Texas — had also failed to report as a sex offender when he moved to Alabama, which violated state law.

He was arrested in Alabama soon after the alleged sexual assault. However, he was released under strict bail conditions, including being placed on a $70,000 US bond.

When he disappeared, a nationwide warrant for Banville’s extradition to the United States was issued.

The RCMP Federal Enforcement Section in St. John's, along with the Placentia/Whitbourne district worked closely with the Canadian Department of Justice and the United States Marshal’s Service to track down Banville.

After he was arrested, Banville was brought to court in St. John’s later that day. The matter was rescheduled to allow him time to get a lawyer.

However, in court Wednesday, Banville told the judge he still didn’t have a lawyer because he didn’t understand the process.

Federal Crown prosecutor James Martin of Halifax told the judge he was prepared for a bail hearing, but felt it would be in Banville’s “best interest” if he first obtained legal representation.

Hall agreed and a bail hearing was scheduled for Oct. 20.

Banville didn’t say anything as he was led out of court, but before proceedings began, he spoke freely to reporters.

He called his arrest “a gross miscarriage of justice.”

Speaking with a soft southern accent, he said he’s being judged without being convicted.

“Unfortunately,” he said, “you’re guilty until proven innocent.”

Banville said he’s never been found guilty “in any court of law.”

In 1988, he pleaded guilty to aggravated sexual assault of a child in Texas.

When asked why he came to this province, Banville said he had driven to many places and liked the people and place so much, he decided to stay. That was about a 1 1/2 years ago.

“The people here are so nice,” he said, “so friendly.”

rgillingham@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Department of Justice

Geographic location: Placentia, United States, Swan Street Morgan Texas St. John's

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