By Patrick Markey
The Armagh man arrested in California on weapons charges and allegedly linked to the murder of human rights lawyer Rosemary Nelson is being held in a county jail where he faces drugs and immigration charges.
William James Fulton, the brother of leading loyalist Mark "Swinger" Fulton, was arrested in December after local police received a call about gunshots from a house where he was staying in Murrieta, Calif.
According to a spokesman for the Robert Presley Prison in Riverside, Fulton is being held on warrant for possessing marijuana for sale and possessing cannabis, as well as an immigration hold. Weapons charges against Fulton were dismissed, the spokesman said.
Prosecutors in the Perris District Attorney’s office said Fulton will appear at a bail hearing on Jan. 20 and a preliminary hearing on Jan. 24. Prosecutors would not comment on the charges or say whether they had been contacted by federal or British authorities.
When Fulton was initially arrested with his wife at the house where they were staying, police said they found at least a dozen small-caliber weapons and about six ounces of hashish.
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A spokesman for the Immigration and Naturalization office in Los Angeles said that immigration officials would take Fulton into custody after local authorities had completed their case. He would likely face deportation proceedings, the spokesman said.
Loyalist sources said that Fulton had left Northern Ireland for the United States last summer.
Fulton is suspected in taking part in Nelson’s murder last July, according to several Irish and British sources who spoke on condition of anonymity. Nelson was killed when a bomb exploded under her car in March last year.
A group called the Red hand Defenders initially claimed responsibility for the attack, but suspicion also fell on renegade members of the Loyalist Volunteer Force and the Ulster Defense Association, who opposed the Good Friday agreement.