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Attorney: Indiana Insists on Extraditing Grandfather on 34-Year-Old Technicality

Theodell McGowan with his fiancée, Helen Allen.
Theodell McGowan with his fiancée, Helen Allen. Family photo via Denver7
On November 26, when we last spoke to attorney Jason Flores-Williams about the pre-Thanksgiving arrest of Theodell McGowan on a technicality related to an Indiana arrest nearly three and a half decades ago, he was hopeful officials there would realize that extraditing an elderly, law-abiding man halfway across the country was a cruel and unnecessary waste of money, and would drop the whole matter.

No such luck.

Corresponding via email, Flores-Williams reveals, "We spoke with the Indiana Department of Corrections and they are right now traveling to come get Mr. McGowan — a seventy-year-old grandfather who hasn't had so much as a parking ticket in three decades — to extradite him back to Indiana and force him to serve 290 days in Indiana State Prison."

McGowan has lived in Colorado since the 1980s; prior to his retirement, he drove a bus for RTD and Denver Public Schools. In both cases, Flores-Williams told us, he'd passed extensive background checks and was given no other indication that he hadn't fully paid his debt to society after being sentenced to eighteen months in a halfway house related to his presence as a passenger in a stolen car in Gary, Indiana, decades ago. According to Flores-Williams, McGowan left the halfway house after being told he'd completed his sentence.

Attorney Jason Flores-Williams specializes in fighting the power.
Photo by Anthony Camera
Cut to November 20, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, when members of the Denver Sheriff Department took McGowan into custody in front of family members with whom he'd been looking forward to sharing a holiday meal. In the process, McGowan obeyed an order to sign a paper given to him, not realizing that it was a waiver of extradition to Indiana. He's been in Denver's Van Cise-Simonet Detention Center ever since.

In a statement about the latest development, Flores-Williams focuses on the price that taxpayers will be ponying up for what's about to happen.

"It costs an average of $20,000 to hold an inmate for this period of time in the Indiana state prison system, which is regularly recognized as one of the worst prison systems in this country," he maintains. "With Theodell's advanced age and health-care needs, we can conservatively add another $5,000; plus extradition costs; plus his time here in the Denver city jail; so that we can safely say the total cost of Theodell's incarceration will be in excess of $30,000, which twice exceeds the amount of money we spend per year on one student in our public school system."

Flores-Williams adds: "If we aren't going to be an educated and humane nation, we should at least try to be a cost-effective one."
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts