State Supreme Court delivers “not guilty” verdicts for four accused of Human Trafficking
- Category: News
- Published: Thursday, 08 September 2016 13:02
- Written by Bill Jaynes
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By Bill Jaynes
The Kaselehlie Press
August 31, 2016
Pohnpei, FSM—Four people accused of Human Trafficking along with a variety of other charges have been set free after the court declared them to be not guilty including one defendant who had entered into a plea agreement with the State.
The State filed multiple charges against the defendants on February 16 of this year including the charge of Human Trafficking. According to the court’s judgment, many of those charges were never addressed and were “left untouched by the Court”.
The State charges alleged that the defendants had required their under-aged family members to prostitute themselves at the Pohnpei port and also required them to bring the money from those activities back to the families.
Associate Justice Mayceleen JD Anson declared that the State had not presented enough admissible evidence to convict the defendants beyond a reasonable doubt.
In the case of the defendant who declared in a plea agreement with the State that she was guilty of “trafficking her sisters into prostitution”, Anson wrote that the court had rejected the plea agreement.
She ruled that the video evidence of an alleged victim against that defendant was presented with no sound and was narrated in court by a police officer as to what the testimony of the witness was. She ruled that testimony to be inadmissible hearsay. “The Court must find her not guilty of all charges,” her findings say.
Two of the defendants gave statements to the police but those statements were acquired without giving the defendants their Miranda rights. Anson’s findings and her final judgment say that they defendants were brought into the police station without being told the reason why, and were given no opportunity to have legal counsel present during questioning. “The court must find their statements inadmissible”, Anson wrote.
Even without the problem of not having been “Mirandized”, Anson said that their statements would be inadmissible because they have a Constitutional right against self incrimination.
Another defendant had the Constitutional right to confront those witnesses against him. If those witnesses were unable or unwilling to testify in Court, that defendant would not have enjoyed the right to confront his accusers that he is guaranteed under the Constitution.
Anson did admit two testimonies against the accused but discounted them wholesale because the witnesses appear to have had a “falling out with the family”.
“The court questions the credibility of persons who are no longer part of the (accused and acquitted) family,” she wrote.
Anson ultimately could not find the defendants guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
A public defender rose and praised the Associate Justice for her “excellent decision”.
Anson replied, “It’s not an excellent decision”. She said that it was a difficult decision but under the law the court has to be held to a standard.
She rejected the prosecuting attorney’s request to reconsider the verdict which was based on what he said was earlier Court rulings that allowed for the admissibility of the evidence the State had presented.
The defendant who had a plea agreement with the State that kept her out of jail violated the conditions of her agreed upon bail. She could have been fined a maximum $1500 fine and/or jail time. The prosecutor recommended that she should pay the maximum fine and if she couldn’t pay it in advance she should go to jail, which she avoided in the first place, unlike the other defendants.
Anson asked how much she could reasonably pay and then fined her $100 for violation of her release conditions.
The Attorney General’s office says that there is nothing in the law that bars a prosecutor from appealing a court decision. It has asked for a transcript of the hearings and will decide whether or not to pursue an appeal on that basis.
(Editor’s note: We have purposely left the names of all parties in the case out of our reporting in order to protect the innocent, including those who were accused and later found to be not guilty.)