By Russ Lay on August 4, 2013
On Aug. 16, 2008, an officer from the Kill Devil Hills police department arrested Ripton Joseph Hylton, known on stage as Eek-A-Mouse, at what was then the Colony IV Hotel.
Hylton, a reggae singer, listed his residence as Los Angeles and was here performing at a local nightspot.
According to documents in the Dare County Clerk of Court’s office, Hylton was charged with first -degree kidnapping, second-degree rape and possession of Schedule 2 cocaine.
He was also charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession.
The kidnapping charge was the result of an allegation by police and the complaintant that Hylton unlawfully detained the woman in his hotel room.
In July of this year, five years later and after leaving the country, missing two court dates and being extracted from Paraguay with the aid of federal agents, Hylton saw the charges reduced to two misdemeanors and he was released to immigration authorities.
The Voice spoke to a number of individuals closely tied to the case. Although some of sources gave permission to use their names, after long discussions, it was decided printing names, including that of the victim, would serve no useful purpose.
However, the story that follows provides another example of how decisions are made within our court district and leaves many questions unanswered.
According to the court documents, Hylton was placed under a $52,000 secured bond.
Hylton, a citizen of Jamaica, missed his first court date on Dec. 16, 2008, and the Superior Court issued an order “to any officer with authority and jurisdiction to serve an order for arrest” to detain Hylton if found.
In 2010, it was established that Hylton was in Amsterdam, Holland, and the court documents indicate a flurry of activity between the local assistant district attorney, Chrissy Simmons, and U.S. and Dutch officials to extradite Hylton.
At that time, a new court date of April 19, 2010 had been set.
Documents filed by Hylton’s attorney, Phillip Hayes, indicated the suspect was unable to leave Amsterdam due to volcanic ash from an eruption in Iceland. There were numerous news reports at the time about flight bans across Europe due to the volcano.
However, those close to the case said the volcano was not the issue.
Rather, the U.S. State Department had revoked Hylton’s visa and he could not be returned to the United States.
Some media reports said Hylton’s visa had been restored by the United States, but our sources said this was not the case and Hylton could not have been returned even if there had been no flight cancellations.
Thus, the defendant missed another court date. Superior Court Judge Jerry Tillett issued a warrant for his arrest that was communicated internationally.
We now fast forward to the Thanksgiving holiday in 2012. Hylton had found his way to Paraguay and had gotten into trouble while in the country. As the D.A.’s office had issued an international order to detain Hylton, Paraguayan authorities contacted the United States and told them he was in custody.
According to two sources close to the case, another flurry of activity saw local law enforcement, FBI agents and prosecutors give up their Thanksgiving holiday to secure Hylton’s return to Dare County.
At first, Paraguayan authorities said they were merely going to take Hylton across the border to a neighboring country and leave him there. At that point, local authorities had gone to bed thinking Hylton had once again eluded them.
Then, Paraguay said it would deport Hylton to his native Jamaica and the U.S. could pursue extradition against him there.
But the next morning, Paraguayan authorities contacted U.S. officials and said they would return Hylton to the U.S. if authorities here would pay for the transportation costs.
This news set off more scrambling as the D.A’s office, local law enforcement and others tried to find money to pay for the flight before Paraguay withdrew the offer. At the last minute, the FBI agreed to buy the plane ticket.
Federal agents also were able to obtain over that weekend special papers from the State Department allowing them to bring Hylton back into the United States in spite of his expired visa. Even better for the prosecution, the FBI sent agents to Paraguay to accompany him.
Not only was all of this accomplished over a holiday weekend, the willingness of Paraguay to turn Hylton directly over to U.S. authorities and the FBI’s offer to pay for transportation saved taxpayers thousands of dollars in extradition costs.
On his return, bond was set in Dare County for $75,000 secured for the drug offense and $1 million for the rape and kidnapping charges.
Here, the story takes another twist.
Plea negotiations were conducted, and according to the current prosecutor, the victim had agreed to the terms.
“Eek-A-Mouse” was allowed to plead guilty to lesser charges of assault on a female and an attempted crime against nature.
The defendant had been charged previously with “inflicting corporeal injury on a spouse/cohab” in 1988 and for a “fight in a public place” in 2000.
Those two prior conditions were taken into consideration with the plea arrangement, and Hylton was given the maximum sentence of 120 days, given credit for time already served — 75 days — and turned over to immigration officials for likely deportation.
The sources who spoke with the Voice expressed surprise at the outcome.
Court documents filed by the D.A.’s office indicated the attending physician at The Outer Banks Hospital on Aug. 16 had formed the opinion “that the location and the pattern of injuries” found on the woman “do not suggest that they were inflicted accidentally or through the victim engaging in consensual sex.”
One attorney we spoke to said virtually all rape cases turn into a “he said/she said” scenario, which makes them hard to prove.
The defendant’s attorney challenged the competency of the doctor and said that since the woman had admitted to using drugs with the defendant in his room prior to the alleged rape, this was merely a case of revenge.
But court documents reveal the woman was, at least up until the point of the plea, determined to see the trial through.
She made two trips to Dare County from out of state to testify. One court document seeking transportation and lodging expense for the victim shows that in 2010 she traveled for three days from Arkansas, a 2,136-mile round trip, to appear in court.
A source close to the case also told the Voice the victim was called over the Thanksgiving holiday when it became apparent Hylton could be returned to Dare County and she indicated she was willing to testify again.
This call was made to insure the prosecution did not make the extreme effort to bring Hylton back to the country only to discover the victim had, over the interim, changed her mind about testifying.
Also of interest was the fact that once the plea arrangement was reached, the case was moved from Dare to the Camden County courthouse.
Sources tell the Voice that moving a case to another courthouse is usually done only when a defendant has agreed to a plea and there is concern the defendant might flee or change his mind, making time of the essence. Given the fact Hylton faced no jail time based on his plea, that scenario was considered unlikely, according to our sources.
On July 8, the Voice sent a fax request to District Attorney Frank Parrish asking why the charges had been reduced and how much money had been spent to bring Hylton back to Dare County.
Given the result, the amount of effort, coordination between legal authorities and money spent amounted to nothing more than what Paraguay had said it would do in the first place — deport Hylton to Jamaica or to a bordering nation.
That D.A.’s office did not respond.