Many criminals have fled South Florida to avoid being brought to justice, but maybe none has fought as hard as Thor Hansen did to come back to the U.S. last week — deliberately to be arrested.
It’s just another chapter in an extraordinarily colorful life that spans everything from leading the notorious Outlaws motorcycle gang to dealing drugs when he lived in Lighthouse Point and training a “broomstick army” of refugees in Lantana to try to overthrow the Haitian government.
Then there’s his criminal record, stretching back to 1965; his claim that he was a freelance CIA agent; his marriage to a Maxwell House coffee heiress; the novel he penned, “Outlaw Biker”; and his country folk music albums, including one titled “Wanted Man.”
Hansen, now 68, simply walked out of the federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale during his cocaine distribution trial in 1981 and went to his native Norway.
He was convicted in his absence, but it took 16 years until he slipped up in 1997, was arrested in Belgium and extradited back to South Florida, where he served seven years in federal prison for the drug convictions.
Because of a quirk in the terms of the international extradition, Hansen wasn’t put on trial for the bond-jumping felony charge filed against him when he disappeared during the trial. He was sent back to Norway when he was freed from prison in 2004.
But in a series of escalating attempts in recent years — all of which failed — Hansen tried to persuade a judge to overturn his drug convictions and drop the bond-jumping allegation.
Eventually, Hansen decided to take a flight from Cancun, Mexico, to Miami on Oct. 8 of this year and turn himself in to federal authorities.
Passport and immigration officials had a different idea. They interviewed him, discovered his criminal past and the fact there was no active arrest warrant, refused him entry to the country and put him on the next available plane back to Mexico.
Hansen then spent weeks trying to negotiate with prosecutors and U.S. embassy officials in Belize. He pestered the court with requests to dismiss the charge or have him arrested and brought to Fort Lauderdale to face it.
He finally got his wish when he received special permission to return to the U.S. for the sole purpose of dealing with the criminal case against him. He was arrested on Nov. 15 and booked into the Broward County Main Jail.
In federal court in Fort Lauderdale on Tuesday, Hansen asked to be freed on a bond of $50,000 to $100,000 with an electronic ankle monitor while he fights the case.
Prosecutor Strider Dickson urged the judge to keep Hansen locked up, saying there’s no guarantee he’d show up for trial and that he could pose a danger to the community.
U.S. District Judge William Dimitrouleas noted that Hansen’s rap sheet included at least one deportation and convictions for a couple of escapes, some assaults, carrying a concealed weapon, and being an accessory after the fact to a homicide in 1977.
“I’m no danger to this community,” Hansen said in court. “That was 30-something years ago, I’m 68.”
Hansen, a towering 6-foot-4 man who sports spectacles, long gray hair, a drooping mustache and the Outlaws’ trademark skull-and-crossed-pistons tattoo peeking out from the left arm of his jail scrubs, could be overheard cheerfully prompting and interrupting his assistant federal public defender, Tim Day, in court.
Hansen, who smiled, chatted and joked with court officials before and during the hearing, described himself as a retired businessman and inventor.
Hansen repeatedly insisted that his only motivation is to clear up the criminal case in the hope that he’d be allowed to travel freely to the U.S. to visit his adult children, including a daughter who lives in Ohio and is willing to let him live with her. He also has somewhere to stay in South Florida and has family in Wisconsin and California, according to court records.
The judge ruled late Tuesday that Hansen should remain locked up because he is a flight risk and a potential danger to the community. The judge also found that the weight of the evidence against Hansen is “significant.” Even if he had been granted a bond, he likely would have been detained by immigration authorities because of his history, the judge said.
If convicted, Hansen faces a maximum of five years in prison but could get a significant amount of time off because the charge dates back to a time when prisoners still qualified for parole.