|Published:||Feb 05, 2013 2:17 PM EST|
|Updated:||Feb 05, 2013 2:17 PM EST|
MIAMI (AP) - A Michigan man's federal trial opened Tuesday with accusations of sexual abuse at a residential center he ran for poor children in Haiti's capital.
Prosecutor Maria Medetis said Matthew Andrew Carter of Brighton, Mich., used the Morning Star Center in Port-au-Prince as "a sexual playground" where he forced children in his care to satisfy his demands in exchange for food, education and security.
Carter's attorney, Phil Horowtiz, said children lived at the center with their parents' permission and were always free to leave.
Carter, 67, has been in custody since his May 8, 2011, arrest at Miami International Airport, just before he boarded a plane bound for Haiti. He ran the Morning Star Center from 1995 through 2011.
Authorities in Haiti, where thousands of children live in orphanages even though at least one parent may be living, took the rare step of shutting down the center after Carter's arrest.
Carter faces five counts of traveling from Florida to the Caribbean country for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity with minors. He also faces one count of attempting child sex tourism.
Horowitz described Carter as a military veteran and the son of a Detroit police officer who became a missionary and wanted to lift a generation of Haitian children out of poverty through education and Bible study.
The concrete Morning Star Center operated legally without incident for 15 years and offered children electricity and clean water, Horowitz said.
"It was better than most of the housing in the neighborhood and general area," he said. "There was a waiting list to get in."
Carter also opened the Morning Star's medical clinic to its neighbors in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake that leveled much of Port-au-Prince, saving many lives, Horowitz said.
Prosecutors described the Morning Star as a trap, instead of a sanctuary.
Carter, who also went by the names "William Charles Harcourt" and "Bill Carter," targeted children in Port-au-Prince's Tabarre neighborhood and lured them to the center with promises of food and education, Medetis said.
He took boys from their beds into his bedroom in the middle of the night to perform sexual acts, and if the boys did not comply with Carter's sexual demands, they faced expulsion back into the grinding poverty around the Morning Star, she said.
"He gave them no choice," she said.
Several former Morning Star residents are expected to testify during the trial that is expected to last four weeks, Medetis said.
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