Adjunct Law Prof Blog

Editor: Mitchell H. Rubinstein
New York Law School

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Slavery Conviction in 2008!

A case that has gone virtually unnoticed is U.S. v. Sabhnani, ___F.Supp.2d ___ (E.D.N.Y. Oct. 20, 2008)(registration required). A copy of the Indictment is available here. However, the case did get a significant amount of press when it was orginally brought. The defendants were reportedly very weathly and they were convicted of slavery. At issue in the above case was whether the defendants were entitled to bail. The court held that they were not.

In describing the defendants conviction, the court noted some of the conduct that was involved. As the court stated:

Mrs. Bonetti also physically abused the victim on a regular basis. Though Mr. Bonetti never physically abused the victim, he failed to stop his wife from doing so and neglected to provide the victim with medical attention for a serious infection and a uterine fibroid. On appeal, Mr. Bonetti claimed, among other things, that the jury erred in finding that he caused serious bodily injury to the victim. The Court found that, under the "extraordinary facts" of the case, Mr. Bonetti had a "legal duty to help [the victim] get prompt medical care." Id. at 447.

As the Court explained, the victim "lived under the same roof as [Mr Bonetti] for almost fifteen years, and her illegal status, illiteracy, ignorance of English, and lack of money rendered her completely dependent upon [Mr. Bonetti] for her well-being and survival." Id. The Court also emphasized that Mr. Bonetti "created a circumstance of forced dependency by the victim through his own conduct of retaining [the victim's] passport in his possession, refusing to renew her visa after it expired, and refusing to pay her for her work." Id. at 448. Accordingly, the Bonetti Court upheld the jury's finding of serious bodily injury in connection with the defendant's harboring convictions.

It is unbelievable that this can happen in America today.

Mitchell H. Rubinstein

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