Re­leased and re­united

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS - Greg McLean

JU­LAT­TEN’S Michael McGoldrick has re­turned from a six-month stint in jail sig­nif­i­cantly lighter and op­ti­mistic he will be al­lowed to re­main in the com­mu­nity he adopted - al­beit il­le­gally - nearly 30 years ago.

Michael was re­leased from Lo­tus Glen Cor­rec­tional Cen­tre on Fe­bru­ary 28 into the wait­ing arms of wife Anita af­ter serv­ing his sen­tence for visa and pass­port fraud of­fences.

The cou­ple were sen­sa­tion­ally ar­rested step­ping off a bus in 2011 and Michael - whose real name is Pat­ton Eid­son - ac­cused of be­ing in­volved in a ma­jor drug op­er­a­tion in the US 28 years ago.

They fled the US with their then teenage daugh­ter and im­mersed them­selves in the Ju­lat­ten com­mu­nity.

Right up un­til the night be­fore his re­lease from jail, Michael was ex­pected to be de­ported straight to the US by au­thor­i­ties to an­swer the drugs charges be­fore he was given a last-minute re­prieve.

‘‘Up un­til the night be­fore my re­lease, I was to be picked up and taken to im­mi­gra­tion de­ten­tion and flown back to the US,’’ he said.

‘‘But thanks to Anita’s dil­li­gence and per­sis­tence, we were granted tem­po­rary bridg­ing visa by the Aus­tralian Government while it con­sid­ers our ap­pli­ca­tion for an aged par­ent­ing visa.

‘‘One of the guards told me the night be­fore and I couldn’t be­lieve it un­til I saw Anita wait­ing for me - I can tell you that coming home back to Ju­lat­ten was the most won­der­ful day of my life.

‘‘If I can say any­thing about jail, it’s a good health re­treat.’’

He lost 14kg in jail which has helped in his strug­gle with chronic ob­struc­tive pul­monary disease, but his strug­gles with bu­reau­cracy look set to con­tinue for a while yet.

Michael re­mains in iden­tity limbo and un­able to even ob­tain a driver’s li­cence be­cause US au­thor­i­ties are hold­ing his pass­port un­til his crim­i­nal al­le­ga­tions are dealt with by the US jus­tice sys­tem.

He will not be de­ported to the US un­til his visa ap­pli­ca­tion is dealt with in Aus­tralia and if he is granted a sub­stan­tial visa, he is un­likely to be forced back to the US.

In the mean­time his lawyer in the US is try­ing to have the charges against him dropped based on a lack of ev­i­dence and the length of time since the al­leged of­fences oc­curred. If the charges are dropped, his pass­port will be re­turned.

‘‘It makes it very hard with­out a li­cence as Anita doesn’t drive and I’ve had to rely on the kind­ness of friends and neigh­bours to get me around,’’ Michael said.

‘‘I’m in a hold­ing pat­tern and would just like some­one to show some com­mon­sense to al­low me to get a li­cence so I’m not a bur­den on oth­ers.’’

Michael said he has been over­whelmed by the com­mu­nity sup­port shown over the past two years.

‘‘The com­mu­nity has really helped us get through some very tough times and our friends con­tinue to sup­port us which we’re very grate­ful and thank­ful for,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s really touch­ing to be the re­cip­i­ent of such gen­eros­ity.’’

Pic­ture: AN­THONY CA­POGRECO

RE­UNITED:

Michael and Anita McGoldrick

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