Lawyers Say Marshals Unjustly Jailed Sauter-Frett after Hurricanes

Lawyers representing a real estate broker accused of embezzlement asked a judge on Wednesday to release their client from jail. The request came from the chief territorial public defender in the case of Rosemary Sauter-Frett.

Sauter-Frett, 65, is awaiting trial on charges that she allegedly took millions in funds given to her by clients in the midst of real estate transactions and fled the territory in 2010. After four years on the run, she was found and arrested by FBI agents in California, and extradited to the U.S. Virgin Islands and jailed on St. Thomas.

The FBI warrant alleged the embezzlement of one client, involving $12,900.

For several months the defendant has been on house arrest, pending trial. According to court documents filed Tuesday, Sauter-Frett was re-arrested by Territorial Court marshals one month ago.

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Marshals executed arrest warrants for several defendants serving house arrest at the time, documents said, because landline telephones required to monitor electronic bracelets were rendered inoperable by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

But Chief Public Defender Samuel Joseph said contrary to assertions laid out in the warrant, his client had not violated the terms of her pre-trial release. Joseph pointed out there was no affidavit attached to the warrant.

Had it been an affidavit it would have listed what violations Sauter-Frett was accused of, Joseph said.

“Mrs. Sauter-Frett, since being on release has not violated the conditions of her release. Mrs. Sauter-Frett has three co-third party custodians all willing to ensure that she abides by the conditions the court established for her release and to attest that Mrs. Sauter-Frett did not violate the conditions of her release following Hurricanes Irma and Maria and was actually in constant contact with the Superior Court Marshal’s Office,” the public defender said.

Public defender Julie Smith Todman represented the accused realtor at an emergency hearing held Wednesday before Judge Denise Francois. Justice Department spokeswoman Corliss Smithen said Todman submitted a modified revocation motion regarding the ankle bracelet worn by Sauter-Frett.

Francois gave prosecutors until Nov. 3 to file a response in opposition to the modified motion.

Jury selection in the embezzlement case has been set and re-scheduled several times since 2014. At one point prosecution was postponed while a court appointed lawyer complained to the V.I. Supreme Court he was unfairly chosen to represent Sauteras an indigent client.

The current pending trial date is Feb. 5, 2018.

Federal charges are also pending against Sauter-Frett, on charges of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.

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