[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

9904: Mom takes deportation risk, refuses plea deal (fwd)

From: leonie hermantin <lhermantin@hotmail.com>

Mom takes deportation risk, refuses plea deal

By Peter Franceschina
Staff Writer
Posted December 8 2001

Elsie Charles, the Boynton Beach woman charged with aggravated child abuse 
for tossing her misbehaving son in a car trunk for a ride home from school, 
believes so strongly she did nothing wrong that she is willing to risk 

The Haitian mother of five turned down a deal Friday that would have had her 
plead guilty to a misdemeanor, an offer the judge strongly recommended she 
take. Because she is not a citizen of the United States, she now faces 
possible deportation if convicted at her January trial of aggravated child 
abuse, a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Sitting in the courtroom wearing a light blue business suit and with her 
hands folded in her lap, Charles said she believed in disciplining her 
children to ensure they don't grow up to commit crimes or kill someone.

"I was only trying to raise my child the only way I know how," she said 
through a Creole interpreter.

Charles, 37, decided to stand on her principles, despite the urgings of her 
defense attorney and the judge to take the plea agreement.

A guilty plea to the misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to two months in 
jail, would have guaranteed she remained in the United States on her green 
card, said her frustrated defense attorney Peter Grable.

Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Kenneth Marra heard Charles' first trial in 
September, which ended with a deadlocked jury. Four of the jurors wanted to 
acquit Charles, but two of them thought she was guilty of a lesser felony of 
child abuse.

If convicted of that charge, immigration officials could use their 
discretion in deciding whether Charles should be deported, Grable said, but 
a conviction on the more serious aggravated child abuse would mean certain 

Marra spent several minutes addressing Charles on Friday morning to make 
sure she understood the gravity of her choice. "I think you are making a big 
mistake in rejecting this offer," he said. "I think you're taking a big risk 
and possibly making a very big mistake."

Charles was unmoved. "I'd rather go to trial," she insisted.

She is charged with placing her 7-year-old son in the trunk after school 
officials called her in May 2000 to pick up the first-grader, yet again, for 
misbehaving. A school custodian said the boy was crying as his mother 
dragged him to the car and put him inside.

"I put him there to teach him a lesson," Charles testified at her trial.

She said she only placed him in the trunk for a short time and let him out 
to walk the rest of the way home from Forest Park Elementary School, which 
is about five blocks from their home. Prosecutors say police later found the 
boy crying several blocks away from his home because he ran away when he was 
let out of the trunk.

Charles has met all the requirements of a parenting program set by Florida 
Department of Children & Families, Grable said. The judge was mystified that 
she wanted to take the case before a jury a second time.

"I still don't understand your client's decision," he told Grable.

"Judge, I've run into some clients who want their day in court," Grable 

Peter Franceschina can be reached at pfranceschina@sun-sentinel.com or 

Get your FREE download of MSN Explorer at http://explorer.msn.com/intl.asp