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Oct 3, 2014 4:27 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Water Mill Couple To Go To Trial After Judge Refuses To Dismiss Forced Labor Allegations

Oct 8, 2014 10:10 AM

A federal judge has refused to dismiss a case against a Water Mill couple in which a former employee claims the pair forced her into indentured servitude between 2005 and 2008.

The suit, which will now be the subject of a trial, was filed by Ni Ketut Sulastri of Bali, who now resides in North Sea, in July 2012. She alleges that she had been hired, through an intermediary in Bali, by Lawrence and Rose Halsey to work for the Halseys’ children’s shoe-making business, Coastal Projection Corporation. She said she was promised a stipend of $450 per month, a 9-to-5 workday, room and board, and help with obtaining lawful permanent resident status.

During her time working for the family, Ms. Sulastri alleges she was forced to work 15 hours a day, seven days a week, as a maid as well as making shoes, but received only $350 in cash each month. In 2006, her pay was increased to $600 cash per month, and in the following year it was raised to $900 per month—but Ms. Halsey would take $100 each month from her employee’s salary to put toward a return plane ticket to Indonesia, according to the suit. Ms. Sulastri claimed that Ms. Halsey told her she would have to repay the family $3,000 for travel expenses to this country if she tried leaving before four years were up.

Over the past year, the Halseys have denied the claims and filed a motion with the court asking for the charges to be dismissed. Last week, according to a copy of the decision, Central Islip-based U.S. District Court Judge Joanna Seybert denied the motion to dismiss, saying there was enough evidence to warrant a jury trial.

The judge ruled that a trial should be held “on the forced labor and involuntary servitude claims based on a triable issue of material fact as to ‘whether the plaintiff was told that she could not leave the Halseys without repaying them for her travel costs to the United States.’”

According to the court decision, the plaintiff has the right to go to trial based on statements allegedly made by Ms. Halsey in effect forbidding Ms. Sulastri to leave the Halseys’ employ until repaying the $3,000 fee it cost to fly her to New York. According to Judge Seybert, the statement is a violation of section 1589 of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, which makes it illegal to “knowingly provide or obtain the labor or service of a person by means of serious harm or threats of serious harm to that person or another person.” The definition of the law, the judge states, was altered in 2008 to include financial harm.

While the defendants said the claims were false and not based on fact, the court has ruled that because a second witness, former employee Dina Rustiningtiyas, testified with similar claims of not being allowed to leave without reimbursing the family for $5,000, the charges do warrant a trial.

This week, attorney for the defendant, Neil Greenberg of Westbury, said he looks forward to being able to bring the case to trial, saying it is going to trial on a technicality, and that the judge admits to contradictions in the plaintiff’s claims that are cited in the report and recommendation ratified by the federal judge.

“Although the court struggled with the question of whether there are genuine issues of fact given the many inconsistencies in plaintiff’s claims, for the sole purpose set herein, the undersigned recommends that the defendants’ motion for partial summary judgment be denied,” the report and recommendation reads.

Mr. Greenberg also said he is confident that the inconsistencies and sole testimony from Ms. Sulastri will be key in the final outcome of the case. “I look forward to the opportunity to represent Mr. and Mrs. Halsey in the trial of this action before a jury whereupon the Halseys will have the opportunity to clear their good name and reputation with a favorable jury verdict,” he said.

It is unclear at this time when the case will go to trial.

This week, the Garden City-based attorney for Ms. Sulastri, Paul F. Millus, said he is very happy with the judge’s decision, saying the case warrants a fair trail. “We are delighted with the decision by the District Court giving us the opportunity to put this matter before the jury to assess the treatment of Ms. Sulastri by the Halseys,” he said via email.

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Oh the squeaky clean Halseys? Lol
By chief1 (2718), southampton on Oct 3, 14 9:52 PM
3 members liked this comment
Must give Rev Al Sharpton directions the The Green Thumb Fruit Stand,He needs to express his views on slaverty 2014 style.
By watchdog1 (527), Southampton on Oct 4, 14 9:35 AM
You mean this occurred here in the glorified Hamptons???? o my goodness!! the travesty.
By LovedHerTown (130), southampton on Oct 4, 14 10:20 AM
$450. 00 per month????!!!!!????!!!!!! These people are truly disgusting !!!!!!!
By Biba (541), East Hampton on Oct 4, 14 8:45 PM
I couldn't agree more,American pie hole. This woman saw what she thought was a big pay day. Hopefully she will go back to Bali before she tries to ruin another decent family.
By eastendgemini (7), southampton on Oct 13, 14 6:56 PM