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George David Exoo was a free man Friday for the first time in four months.

U.S. District Magistrate Judge Clarke VanDervort denied a request by the U.S. Attorney’s Office to extradite the former Beckley Unitarian minister to Ireland for his alleged role five years ago in assisting the suicide of a woman there.

Exoo, 65, broke into tears of joy, along with his followers who were in attendance, and a collective gasp went up from the room as the decision was announced. VanDervort ordered Exoo immediately released for the first time since his June 25 arrest by federal authorities. One woman slumped against the wall following the hearing, shoulders heaving with sobs of relief.

“I really didn’t know what was going to happen,” Exoo said. “I have a parish in Lewisburg, and I intend to preach there Sunday.”

VanDervort also denied a motion by prosecutors to reopen the case based on testimony they claimed to possess from one of Exoo’s fellow inmates and the potentially incriminating remarks he had allegedly overheard from the embattled former minister.

As he explained his decision, VanDervort outlined what could only be described as scales of justice that were perfectly balanced. In researching the various laws of the 50 states in this country to determine whether a preponderance of them spoke to the issue of assisted suicide, VanDervort came to a perplexing conclusion — 25 such laws are analogous to those of Ireland and 25 are not.

“Very few states have defined those terms,” he noted, referring to such legal terms as “aiding,” “abetting” and “causing” a suicide.

“While Mr. Exoo’s conduct may be viewed as wrong, it is generally not recognized as criminal in the United States.”

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