The Province newspaper reported on December 5 that a Vancouver man found guilty of human trafficking for improperly bringing to B.C. a Filipino nanny is seeking a new trial. The newspaper reported that lawyers for Franco Orr were in court on that day arguing to overturn the conviction.
Last year, Orr was found to have lured Leticia Sarmiento into Canada with false promises so she would care for his three children. He was sentenced to 18 months in jail.
Orr was convicted on three counts under Canada’s immigration laws, of human trafficking, employing a foreign national and misrepresenting facts to immigration officials. It was the first such human trafficking conviction in Canada.
The Province newspaper reported that defence lawyer Terry La Liberte told a three judge panel of the B.C. Court of Appeal that there were a number of grounds of appeal that call for a new trial for Orr.
The lawyer said the Crown’s opening statement to the jury on the issue of human trafficking was inflammatory and argued that the trial judge, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Richard Goepel, was wrong to have admitted into evidence the testimony of an expert Crown witness.
La Liberte said that the jury’s decision not to convict Orr’s wife, Nicole Huen, on the same charges was also problematic.
“It makes no sense why the jury would pick him and not her.”
The Province reported that Crown counsel Todd Gerhart argued that the procedure for allowing the expert to testify as fair and appropriate and the judge made no errors. He noted that there were no issues about the expert prior to the trial.
Gerhart also said there was nothing wrong with the jury convicting Orr but not Huen because the evidence presented to the jury differed for the two accused. Both Huen and the victim were in the public gallery of the court watching the proceedings. Orr, who is on bail, was ordered to surrender himself into custody for Friday’s appeal hearing. It was expected he would be rereleased on bail at the end of the hearing.
At trial, Orr was found to have lied to immigration officials in order to bring the nanny to Canada from Hong Kong. Sarmiento testified that she was subjected to humiliating and degrading treatment at the Orr residence, but Justice Goepel found that the Crown had not proved those allegations.
The panel is expected to give their ruling on the appeal at a later date.