Released and reunited
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.’’
Michael and Anita McGoldrick