BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Feb. 11, 2016–A trial by jury ended last night, Wednesday, in the Supreme Court of Justice Adolph Lucas, when 5 women and 4 men deliberated for about 90 minutes before they returned to the courtroom to announce a guilty verdict against a Honduran woman accused of human trafficking.
The conviction of Estela Gonzalez, 64, is the first time anyone has been convicted of human trafficking on indictment in Belize.
Upon the request of Gonzalez’s attorneys, however, the media was barred from the proceedings.
Justice Lucas has deferred sentencing until Thursday, February 18, in order to give Gonzalez’s attorneys, Leo Bradley, Jr., and Kevin Arthurs, time to prepare mitigation presentations on her behalf.
Gonzalez could be sentenced to up to eight years in prison.
The human trafficking offense allegedly was committed between August 17, 2013 and September 7, 2013. The complaint against Gonzalez was made by a Honduran woman who was 15 at the time she was trafficked to Belize.
The woman testified that she was having family problems in her native country and was introduced to Gonzalez, who offered to take her to Belize City.
Upon her arrival in Belize City, she said, she visited a business place and contacted Gonzalez by telephone before going to her house.
Gonzalez asked her what kind of work she wanted to do, and she replied that she wanted to work in a beauty salon.
Gonzalez, the woman said, took her to Temptation Bar, located at Mile 10 on the George Price Highway. At Temptation Bar, the woman said, she had to endure sexual intercourse with three different men on three different occasions.
The men paid Gonzalez $150 for her services and after paying the establishment $50 per man, Gonzalez gave her $25, the woman said.
In her defense, Gonzalez gave a statement from the dock in which she denied that she committed the offense. Gonzalez told the court that the girl showed up at her house, at Mile 10 on the George Price Highway, and begged her for work.
She told the girl that she didn’t have any work, but when the girl insisted, she took her to Temptation Bar and gave her a job there.
The Crown’s evidence was led by Director of Public Prosecutions, Cheryl-Lynn Vidal, who was assisted by Crown Counsels Sheringe Rodriguez and Janelle Tillett.