Sentencing in Aloun Farms forced labor case pushed back again

By Minna Sugimoto - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A second marathon session at U.S. District Court in Honolulu has failed to produce a sentence for the owners of Aloun Farms in their human trafficking case. Despite four hours of arguments by attorneys Monday, there's still no punishment set for Alec and Mike Sou.

The parties emerged from the courthouse shortly after 6 PM without a resolution. The brothers face up to five years in prison after earlier pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit forced labor.

Prosecutors say 44 farmers from Thailand each paid recruiters about $20,000 for the chance to work at Aloun Farms and earn $9.42 an hour under a three-year contract. But prosecutors say the Sous under -paid the workers, forced them to live in substandard housing, and threatened to have them deported if they were disobedient.

During the sentencing, defense attorneys argued the brothers' role in the conspiracy was extremely minimal, and that the recruiters in Thailand were mostly to blame.

The judge stopped the hearing and told the Sous to decide whether they want to withdraw their guilty pleas and go to trial.

"Do you feel like you want to withdraw your guilty plea?" this reporter asked Mike Sou outside the courthouse.

"Nothing to say yet. Thank you," the defendant replied.

"Help us to understand why they agreed to plead guilty?" this reporter asked.

"Well, I have no further comment at this time," Howard Luke, Alec Sou's attorney, said.

"The Sou brothers want it both ways," Clare Hanusz, victims' attorney, said. "They want to plead guilty and not have to face a trial and more serious charges, but they don't really want to admit to having done anything wrong. As the judge said, you can't do it both ways."

The hearing is scheduled to continue September 9th.

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