Thursday, July 15, 2010

Quickly refile Haitian charges

Quickly refile Haitian charges
A judge's dismissal of charges against a Fairfield University graduate accused of sexually assaulting impoverished boys in Haiti is an embarrassment to the prosecution. Immediate steps must be taken to file charges in the appropriate district and see that the case proceeds.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton dismissed an indictment against Douglas Perlitz that claimed he used his position as head of a charitable foundation to victimize people he was supposed to be helping. But the decision in no way vindicates Perlitz.

Arterton said federal prosecutors are not forbidden from re-indicting Perlitz in another jurisdiction. To see justice is served, that is what prosecutors must do.

Though Perlitz lived in Connecticut during part of the time the alleged abuse took place, none of the abuse itself was said to have taken place here. That made the indictment, under Arterton's ruling, impermissible.

Perlitz was founder and director of Project Pierre Toussaint, a charitable organization in Haiti's second-largest city, Cap-Haitien. Though largely spared the effects of the devastating earthquake six months ago, Cap-Haitien, like the rest of the nation, is desperately poor.

The Perlitz prosecution signaled a crackdown on so-called "sex tourism," where people decamp to foreign countries for activities that would be illegal in this country but often cannot be prosecuted in nations with ill-functioning legal systems.

The prosecution must view this action as a setback, not a dead end. Find the appropriate venue, refile the charges and let the case take its course.

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