USA Today reports that on the first day of trial, the Haitian prosecutor recommends six months in jail:
Prosecutor Sonel Jean-Francois told a Port-au-Prince court today that Silsby knew she had broken Haitian law. She and nine other Baptist missionaries were charged initially with kidnapping after being stopped on their way to the Dominican Republic, where she planned to open an orphanage. The nine have been freed, and kidnapping charges against all 10 were dropped last month.
Southern Baptist Laura Silsby faces up to three years in Haitian prison if convicted of the remaining charge of “organization of irregular trips” under a 1980 statute. That charge was brought to bear against her in mid-March.
Other charges against her and all charges against the remaining nine Baptists have been dropped by Judge Bernard Saint-Vil, according to the Associated Press.
According to MSNBC, Judge Saint-Vil concluded that Silsby “knew she had no right to take the 33 children out of earthquake-ravaged Haiti” and she deceived the other nine by telling them she had the documents required to take the children out of Haiti.
The initial charges resulted from their attempt to take 33 children out of Haiti after the Jan. 12 earthquake. Silsby faces trial as a result of evidence of a Jan. 26 attempt by her to bus child earthquake survivors to the Dominican Republic.
The Haitian law under which Silsby is charged restricts travel out of Haiti and was signed in 1980 by then-dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier. It carries a penalty of 3-6 years.
Judge Bernard Saint-Vil said today that the legal fate of Laura Silsby, who is still in jail, and that of the nine who have been freeded has not been decided,” the Associated Press reported a short time ago.
Haitian Attorney General Joseph Manes said earlier that all of the charges stand, CNN reporte, “until the examining judge rendered his final decision on whether to proceed to trial.”
U.S. Sen Jim Risch, R-Idaho, whose staff said Thursday that charges had been dropped, responded:
We are standing by what we were orginally told by the State Department. We did, however, ask the State Department to reconfirm for us, and we are waiting that response.
Clearly, the senator’s staff has been overruled.
Charges have been dropped against nine of the 10 Baptist missionaries who were arrested while trying to bus 33 child earthquake survivors from Haiti to the Dominican Republic on Jan. 29, a spokesman for Idaho Sen. Jim Risch told CNN, although the expedition’s leader, Laura Silsby, is still in Haitian jail.
The Risch spokesman said examining Judge Bernard Saint-Vil has completed his investigation of Silsby and it has been submitted to the prosecutor, who is expected to return his recommendation with regard to Silsby within a week.
In mid-March when bail for Silsby was rejected, Saint-Vil’s investigation turned upon whether there had been a Jan. 26 attempt by Silsby to bus child earthquake survivors out of Haiti. At that time, Saint-Vil brought the additional charge of “organization of irregular trips” against all 10 Americans, The Laredo Sun reported, “who were arrested in January, even though nine of them have been released on bail and have left the country.”
The prosecutor is now expected to return a recommendation within a week. He may recommend additional investigation or a finding of “guilty” or “not guilty,” U.S. State Department officials said.
Paul Thompson, one of those originally charged and pastor of Eastside Baptist Church in Twin Falls, Idaho, told Baptist Press last week that Silsby “has been a consistent minister to the other inmates” during her time in jail, sharing Creole Bibles. He also said, “The church in Haiti continues to visit Laura on a regular basis, bringing her food, water and other necessary items,” Thompson said, adding she has had enough water and food to share with fellow inmates. Haitian law requires that prisoners be fed by outsiders, he explained.
It is a cautionary case. Silsby was warned repeatedly during the days preceding arrest of the 10 that she was headed for legal difficulty. There was not one orphan, the Associated Press determined, among the 33 children the group was attempting to transport to the Dominican Republic.
The children have apparently all been restored to their families. UNICEF and others agree that an approach which keeps families together when that is possible, reduces the likelihood of inadvertent harm and helps make it more difficult for child traffickers to take advantage of a natural catastrophe to prey on children.
The Associated Press reported Wednesday that all but one of the children “were given back to 22 families.” And the remaining child awaits verification of parents’ identities, while Laura Silsby remains in jail.
Laura Silsby is still in jail because Examining Judge Bernard Saint-Vil has concluded there is evidence of another attempt by her to bus child earthquake survivors to the Dominican Republic on Jan. 26.
Saint-Vil brought the additional charge of “organization of irregular trips” against all 10 Americans, The Laredo Sun reports, “who were arrested in January, even though nine of them have been released on bail and have left the country.”
The Haitian law restricts travel out of Haiti that and was signed in 1980 by then-dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier. It carries a penalty of 3-6 years. The other charges the 10 may face, the Sun reported, are criminal association, with a penalty of 3-15 years, and kidnapping of a minor, with a penalty of 3-9 years.
Silsby was warned repeatedly during the days preceding arrest of the 10 that she was headed for legal difficulty. There was not one orphan, the Associated Press determined, among the 33 children the group was attempting to transport to the Dominican Republic.
Saint-Vil also rejected a petition for bail, and if he completes his investigation next week, as expected, will submit his findings to the attorney general for review. The attorney general will have five working days to return an opinion before Saint-Vil can announce whether he will go to trial.
I posted my Special Report on this affair last week, which contained allegations that Silsby’s team was being offered help by certain Dominicans and Haitian helpers to cross the Dominican border with children they planned to pick up, possibly in exchange for money. I have more to share about those allegations, and what I’ve been able to learn.
As Silsby-watchers know, Haitian Judge Bernard Saint-Vil is still detaining Silsby today, but released her best friend Charisa Coulter yesterday. He did that only after holding closed sessions to re-question Silsby and two Dominican real estate agents Jose Hidalgo and his partner Rob Chenvert, and another individual about their knowledge and version of events. When asked why he won’t release Silsby, the judge told a reporter he has discovered ‘discrepancies’ in Silsby’s accounts, and is reviewing certain documents. To even a casual reader, that means something isn’t adding up.
For many reasons. Read the rest here.
Q: What is the likelihood that Laura Silsby will be released?
A: It would be unconstitutional for one to stay behind on the same charges after all the others have been released. There would have to be new charges against her.
Read the rest here.
Bernard Sainvil told Reuters the case, which involves 33 children, should be closed this week because there were no criminal grounds to pursue it.
A lawyer for the two said he thought they would be freed by Thursday.
ABC reported that with regard to Laura Silsby and Charisa Coulter, the judge has all the information he wants.