An American who had lived as a fugitive in a far north Queensland town for three decades has been jailed in the United States.
Patton Eidson, 74, also known as Peyton, was arrested at his home in Julatten a year ago.
The arrest prompted an outpouring of support from the small community, north of Cairns, as well as two Federal MPs.
Using fake passports, Eidson, his wife Sonja and daughter Maya fled the US for Australia in 1985 to avoid prosecution for his involvement in a cannabis ring.
On Friday, he was sentenced in a US court to three years behind bars after pleading guilty for his part in a marijuana smuggling operation between Thailand and the US in the 80s.
Leichhardt MP Warren Entsch said Eidson had made a significant contribution to his far north Queensland community.
“Yes, he has a past, we all have a past. He has had the courage to go back and deal with it and I hope they will consider the time that he spent in detention in Australia as counting towards his sentence,” Mr Entsch said.
“Whatever the outcome is, I just hope that he can maintain his health — he has emphysema — and is well enough to get back [to Australia] so he can spend the rest of his days here.
“My thoughts are with him and I look forward to sharing a red on the verandah at his house at Julatten when he arrives.”
“A model citizen”
Mr Entsch said Eidson’s daughter, Maya, who runs a restaurant in Mackay in Queensland, was present in court in the US when her father was jailed.
Eidson’s wife Sonja died in 2016 and is buried on the family’s property at Julatten.
The Eidson family carved out a life for themselves, establishing a health spa in the rainforest.
But it all came crashing down when authorities caught up with him in 2011.
He spent three months in an Australian detention centre last year before voluntarily returning to the US in January to face charges of conspiring to distribute marijuana and aggravated identify theft.
Mr Entsch secured an agreement from Immigration Minister Peter Dutton to fast-track Eidson’s re-entry to Australia last year and said the offer still stands.
“Mr Dutton said ‘go back, deal with your issues’, and he has committed to giving him a visa and giving him residency,” Mr Entsch said.
“He has nothing in the United States and … he was a model Australian citizen.”