The Associated Press is reporting that Laura Silsby, the 40-year-old Idaho missionary who led a group of 10 Americans that was caught trying to take a busload of children out of Haiti after the Jan. 12 earthquake, has been sentenced to time served and released. Silsby maintained she wanted to rescue orphans after the earthquake and take them to a new orphanage she hoped to establish in the Dominican Republic; however, it turned out all the children had at least one living parent, and Silsby lacked the necessary permits to take the 33 children out of the country. She was convicted of arranging illegal travel; the AP reports that she returned briefly to her jail cell to pick up her belongings, then headed to the Port-au-Prince airport.
Idaho's four-member congressional delegation issued this statement on Silsby's release: “We are pleased the Haitian judicial process for Laura Silsby has concluded and that she will be returning home. This has been a trying time for her family and friends, and they will undoubtedly be happy to have her back in Idaho.” Click below to read the full story from the AP.
US missionary convicted in Haiti, but free to go
By JONATHAN M. KATZ, Associated Press Writer
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — The last of 10 Americans detained while trying to take 33 children out of Haiti following the Jan. 12 earthquake was released Monday after a judge convicted her and sentenced her to the time she had already served in jail.
Laura Silsby, the organizer of the ill-fated effort to take the children to an orphanage being set up in the Dominican Republic, returned to her jail cell briefly to retrieve belongings before quickly heading to the Port-au-Prince airport.
"I'm praising God," Silsby told The Associated Press as she waited for a flight out of Haiti. She declined further questions.
The Idaho businesswoman had been in custody since Jan. 29. She was originally charged with kidnapping and criminal association. Those charges were dropped and she was convicted of arranging illegal travel under a 1980 statute restricting movement out of Haiti signed by then-dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier.
Prosecutor Jean-Serge Joseph said she was convicted and sentenced to the 3 months and 8 days she has spent behind bars. Earlier, the prosecution had recommended a six-month sentence and she faced a maximum of three years on the charge.
"She is free," Joseph said.
The 40-year-old Silsby told the court earlier she thought the children were orphans whose homes were destroyed in the earthquake. But she lacked the proper papers to remove them from the country at a time when the government was restricting adoptions to prevent child trafficking in the chaos that followed the earthquake.
An AP investigation later revealed all the children had at least one living parent, who had turned their children over to the group in hopes of securing better lives for them.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.