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CHINESE ‘MADAM’ SENTENCED TO ONE YEAR IN RMI To serve sentence under house arrest due to inadequate jail

By Giff Johnson

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Marianas Variety, ) – Majuro businesswoman Mary Chen was sentenced this week to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine after being found guilty of promoting prostitution recently.

But she will serve her one-year sentence under house arrest, following a request from her attorney Witten Philippo to government Chief Secretary Casten Nemra for an alternative location because of security problems at the jail. Nemra issued an administrative order enforcing her house arrest.

Majuro’s jail has repeatedly been written up in the annual United States Human Rights report on the Marshall Islands as not meeting minimum international standards for incarceration.

Chen, a national of the People’s Republic of China who has lived in Majuro for about 20 years, was found guilty of two counts of promoting prostitution but was found not guilty of a third count of false arrest, according to the verdict issued by Chief Justice Carl Ingram following a three-day trial in August.

Philippo and Marshall Islands Chief Prosecutor Tubosoye Brown had recommended to the Chief Justice the day before she was sentenced that Chen be given a one-year suspended jail sentence and a fine of $5,000.

In his sentencing order, Ingram noted Chen’s statement that she had been in business in the RMI for 20 years and has no prior criminal record.

Ingram also said that the maximum sentence for promoting prostitution according to the law is a fine of $10,000 and/or five years in jail.

For the two counts to which she was found guilty, Ingram sentenced her to five years jail, with one year to serve and four years suspended. The 12 months to be served was to be in Majuro jail, "but if, as the (chief prosecutor) states, the Majuro jail is not suitable for the incarceration of a female prisoner, then in another facility designated by the republic or upon house arrest," said Ingram in his order.

"The court’s purpose in giving this sentence is ... to discourage the defendant from ever again promoting prostitution; to discourage other residents of the republic from promoting prostitution; to confirm that promoting prostitution is not acceptable behavior in the republic; and to encourage the defendant to change her behavior."

Philippo said the Chief Secretary in response to Philippo’s request has ordered that Chen not go beyond 50 feet of her compound at the Canton Hotel in Majuro for a 12-month period without permission of her probation officer. The jail does not have facilities that are secure for a female, Philippo said. "There are safety and security issues for women at the jail," he said.

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