Trial: Man denies claims of Haiti child sex abuse

Associated Press

MIAMI (AP) — A Michigan man on trial in federal court denied allegations Tuesday that he sexually abused Haitian children at a residential center he operated in the poor Caribbean country.

Matthew Andrew Carter of Brighton, Mich., faces five counts of traveling from Florida to Haiti for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity with minors, along with one count of attempting child sex tourism.

Carter first took the stand Friday in Miami federal court. He resumed his testimony Tuesday.

Carter, who also went by the names "William Charles Harcourt" and "Bill Carter," ran the Morning Star Center, first in Croix-des-Bouquets and then in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, from 1995 until 2011. His attorneys have described him as a military veteran who became a missionary and wanted to lift a generation of Haitian children out of poverty through education and Bible study.

When asked by his attorney, Phil Horowitz, whether he had ever traveled to Haiti to engage in sexual acts with children under the age of 18, Carter replied, "No, sir, never."

Carter, 67, said he provided children at the center with food for their families and a daily allowance for school. He denied the allegations of sexual abuse made by former Morning Star residents, who testified earlier in his trial.

Earlier this month, on the first day of Carter's trial, two former residents, now 28 and 31, said they felt he had no choice but to comply with the sexual demands of the man who paid for their food, clothes and education. One described sexual abuse from the ages of 9 through 14, and he said Carter gradually became more hostile toward him as he grew older. The other testified he never reported the sexual abuse he experienced and witnessed because of Carter's status in the community.

Prosecutors called additional former Morning Star residents to the stand throughout the trial. The Associated Press generally does not identify victims of alleged sexual abuse.

Haitian national police had investigated a few complaints of sexual misconduct at the center since 2003. Carter said he cooperated with the police and had notified the U.S. embassy in Port-au-Prince about the investigations.

Haitian authorities never charged Carter with any crime, nor did they shut down the center until after U.S. authorities arrested Carter in 2011 at Miami International Airport, just before he was to board a plane bound for Haiti.

Thousands of children in Haiti live in orphanages even though at least one parent may be living, and the closing of Carter's center was a rare step for the Haitian government.

Carter's attorneys rested their case Tuesday without calling any other witnesses. U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard denied their requests to take depositions from witnesses who could not travel from Haiti and from a Danish law enforcement officer who could not travel to Miami for medical reasons.

The officer was on a leave of absence and working with the United Nations in Haiti from 2006 through 2011. According to court documents, she had agreed to testify that she visited the Morning Star Center several times and never suspected that any of the children were victims of sexual abuse.

Under questioning by Horowitz, Carter said he allowed the children to freely speak with U.N. staff bringing food, medical supplies and tents to the center after Haiti's 2010 earthquake, as well as with Marines who visited the center amid the 2004 ouster of Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide.

Prosecutor Maria Medetis said the government planned to call rebuttal witnesses to the stand Wednesday.

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Follow Associated Press writer Jennifer Kay on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jnkay .

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