Dana Parsons
Los Angeles Times
July 12, 2009

When Simon Sheppard and Stephen Whittle stepped off a plane at LAX in July 2008 — a couple of jet-lagged Brits on the lam from the United Kingdom — they looked for the first uniformed U.S. official they could find. Unfortunately for them, they found one.

[efoods]They thought they had found safe harbor from the English court that three days earlier had convicted them of hate-related writings originating on their website. Rather than wait for sentencing — expected to range from a year or two for Whittle to perhaps five years or more for Sheppard — the men skipped bail and hopped a plane in Dublin, believing that U.S. free-speech traditions and the visa waivers they secured at an Irish airport would shield them.

Sheppard says he approached a U.S. official in Los Angeles, showed him the visa waiver and said in effect, “I’m sorry to be a nuisance, but we want to claim political asylum in the United States.”

Eleven months later, Sheppard, 52, and Whittle, 42, remain in U.S. custody, spending their days in orange jumpsuits in the Santa Ana City Jail and awaiting a return to England and likely jail sentences. Since arriving in America, they haven’t spent a single day as free men.

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