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Jan 31, 2006

American acquitted of human trafficking sues government

Story PictureIn October of 2003 the town of Punta Gorda–and the nation of Belize–was caught up in a lurid case of alleged child sex abuse. Three U.S. citizens were vilified by the media and charged with various crimes ranging from carnal knowledge to trafficking in persons. But after several years of postponed trials, the cases against all three men were dropped by the prosecution. It turned out there never was any evidence of their guilt. Now one of these three Americans, H. Lee Jones, has decided to make some legal noise of his own. He’s about to file a lawsuit against the government for malicious prosecution. We asked him why.

H. Lee Jones, Suing for Malicious Prosecution
?There are several reasons. One obviously is because of the financial loss that I incurred and the fact that I was never in any way implicated by the children during their testimony?false or otherwise?but nevertheless, I was still charged with trafficking in persons along with two men. But I think the more important reasons are, number one, is I feel like it?s time to put the government and the police on notice that the police cannot simply continue to run roughshod over the citizens of Belize. They go around and they threaten, intimidate, and rape women and children, false charges, aggressively pursuing people that are innocent, that they know are innocent. That?s simply got to stop. In a civilised society you can?t continue to have the police intimidating the people, the very people that they are here to protect.?

While Jones does admit that there was cause for the police to investigate what appeared to be suspicious behaviour on the part of one of his co-defendants, he claims the cops went way off the tracks in their overzealous pursuit of a conviction.

H. Lee Jones
?I?m not saying they shouldn?t have investigated it, because there was some suspicions, especially with one of the men who was spending an awful lot of time around children, and there was every reason to believe that there may be something amiss. He wasn?t molesting children, but how are people to know that, he was always around children. So I think there was reason to investigate, I?m not sure than an investigation really was ever done though and we were all detained. I was let go after forty-eight hours for there was no evidence brought against me. But when I tried to leave the country, get my passport to leave the country because I live in the United States, I work in the United States, I had important meeting to attend and had already missed one flight, I couldn?t get my passport back. Ultimately I had to flee the country, suspecting they might charge me with something but not knowing what. And then in the long run I was along with the other two charged with trafficking in persons, though in my case I?m not really sure what it was that I allegedly did to be accused of trafficking in persons but apparently knowing the other two and somehow facilitating the exploitation of children.?

Stewart Krohn
?Mr. Jones, in your lawsuit you specifically named Inspector Cardinal Smith who was the lead investigator in the case as a subject of the lawsuit. Do you think he had something specifically against you??

H. Lee Jones
?I don?t think he had anything specifically against us. A lot of people have said that it was because we were Americans or we were white or whatever. … I don?t think he had anything personally against us, but the way he pursued this, how aggressively he pursued it and once it turned out that there was no evidence, he didn?t let up, he went way beyond what is normal and maybe what is even legal, he and the other officers in his charge in forcing a case where there really wasn?t a case to begin with.?

Jones is a research biologist who has authored many scientific articles and the book, “Birds of Belize.” His attorney is Michael Peyrefitte.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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