A family accused of keeping a Haitian teen as a slave and abusing her are the victims of an opportunist looking to get residency in the US, defense attorneys said in opening statements.
Maude Paulin and her mother, Evelyn Theodore, face federal charges that they illegally brought Simone Celestin into the US, kept her in involuntary servitude and conspired to violate her civil rights until the girl escaped in 2005.
Paulin's sister, Claire Telasco, also faces charges of forced labor and conspiracy. Paulin's ex-husband, Saintfort Paulin, faces a federal human trafficking charge. Each defendant has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Prosecutors said Celestin was stolen at age 5 from her mother and grandmother in a remote mountain village and forced to pretend she was an orphan at the orphanage Theodore ran with her late husband in Ranquitte, Haiti.