LOS ANGELES (AP) — Randy Quaid says he would like to return to the United States one day, but he and his wife still fear they are being persecuted by California prosecutors and tabloid media.
Although U.S. officials recently refused to seek extradition of the actor and his wife from Canada to face felony vandalism charges in Santa Barbara, Calif., authorities in the coastal town say they'll still have the couple arrested if they return to the states.
The Quaids, who have missed several court appearances in the case, claim they are the victims of corrupt forces and are demanding an investigation.
"I feel like we've been driven out of the country and that the door's been slammed behind us," Quaid told The Associated Press in a phone interview from British Columbia on Friday. "And for what, these phony little trespassing, vandalism charges? Santa Barbara can sleep better tonight knowing the Quaids are out of their hair."
The couple's current trouble began in September 2010, when they were arrested for causing more than $5,000 damage at a hillside home they were renting.
It was the second bout of trouble for the couple in Santa Barbara. Months earlier the pair resolved a case in which they also missed several court appearances related to charges they defrauded an innkeeper; the case against the actor was dropped, but his wife was placed on probation after pleading no contest to a misdemeanor.
After the new arrest, they say they waited weeks to see if they would be charged. On Oct. 16, two days before they were charged — when a prosecutor says they had been notified to appear — the Quaids traveled to Vancouver, British Columbia.
Days later, they were arrested by Canadian police because of the California case. Quaid sought asylum, claiming he was being hunted by "Hollywood star-whackers" who had killed his friends Keith Carradine and Heath Ledger.
Several more times, a judge in Santa Barbara ordered the couple to appear, increasing the couple's bail each time they didn't show. By then Evi Quaid had learned her father was a Canadian citizen and she would be allowed to stay. Her husband, an Oscar-nominated actor who has appeared in films as varied as the "Vacation" franchise, "Independence Day" and "Brokeback Mountain, was allowed to stay, too.
The Quaids' behavior and statements have led many to question their sanity. Randy Quaid says he's not bothered by that, but wants to be recognized for his acting again.
"What I wish more than anything is that I could start getting press about my work as an actor," he said in the Friday interview. "That is what I do. I'm not a criminal."
The Quaids claim they had no idea they had to be in court Oct. 18. "We kept our eye on the media, waiting for something to happen," Randy Quaid said. "We never even contacted an attorney — we hadn't been charged."
They allege Santa Barbara Senior District Attorney Lee Carter falsely accused them of fleeing the country to evade prosecution and lying by saying they fled with active warrants.
Carter denied the allegation, and said the Quaids knew they had to be in court on the 18th, regardless of whether they'd been charged or not. "They bailed out and promised their bail bondsman that they would be in court on the 18th," he said.
Carter also denied the Quaids' accusations that there is a vendetta in Santa Barbara against them. "They're being treated like anyone else who commits a crime in our jurisdiction," he said. "They get prosecuted."
They also remain subject to arrest in the United States; fugitive warrants issued by a Santa Barbara judge remain active.
"They're fraudulent warrants as far as we're concerned," Evi Quaid said. "Randy Quaid is no more a fugitive from America than Uncle Sam is. I mean, he's the star of 'Independence Day.'"
The Quaids argue they may still own the home where they were arrested, that there are legitimate questions about whether the actor's signature on documents transferring the house is a forgery.
Evi Quaid also says they hadn't caused any of the damage attributed to them by authorities, but rather had tried to clean up the house in the hopes that it might still be theirs. "All I did was garden," she said.
Despite their current woes, the Quaids say their problems go back much further; they suspect that personal information has been stolen and their phones have been hacked, possibly by reporters.
A 2008 story in the New York Post detailed complaints against the couple over their behavior on the set of a Broadway-bound play being rehearsed in Seattle. The show imploded, the story claimed, due to bizarre behavior by the actor, including lewd comments and hitting a castmate in the head. The end result was an $81,000 fine by the Actors' Equity Association and a lifetime ban from the group.
Drawing parallels with the phone hacking scandal that has engulfed British papers owned by Post parent News Corp., Randy Quaid claims he had discussed many details that were included in the Post piece with his attorney on a cell phone before boarding a flight in New York.
As the plane was about to leave, the Quaids said Post columnist Michael Riedel contacted him about the allegations, which the Quaids believe could have only been revealed if someone had hacked their phone.
The paper rejected the allegation in a statement released to the AP late Friday. "Michael Riedel categorically denies this claim," the paper said in a statement, stating that Quaid has provided no proof he was hacked.
The Quaids say they hope other stars will speak out and that inquiries by U.S. authorities will expose dirty tabloid tactics similar to those surfacing in the U.K. "At least they're outraged in England," Evi Quaid said. "I hope that it crosses to New York and people get angry."
Anthony McCartney can be reached at http://twitter.com/celebritydocket