The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday evening that it is trying to confirm the date of a sentencing hearing for a Taiwanese diplomat detained on labor fraud charges in the US. The ministry was responding to a report in the Kansas City Star that the court had settled on a hearing date before the Lunar New Year holiday next month.
Spokesman James Chang (章計平) said the ministry was still trying to confirm the report because it had not been notified of any decision by the federal court in the Western District of Missouri as of Tuesday evening.
Jacqueline Liu (劉姍姍), -director-general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Kansas City, pleaded guilty on Nov. 18 to charges of underpaying and overworking her two Philippine housekeepers and paid US$80,044.62 in restitution to the two victims.
However, that plea bargain was not accepted by Judge Greg Kays, who said he wanted to review the customary pre-sentence report before passing sentence, a process that can take about three months to complete.
In addition to the restitution covered under the terms of the plea agreement, the 64-year-old, who has been detained since she was arrested by FBI agents on Nov. 10, is expected to be sentenced to time served and -deported immediately.
The Kansas City Star reported on Tuesday that “in an order issued [on] Tuesday, Kays said he was prepared to schedule the hearing on Jan. 18, but could be persuaded to hold it earlier if the housekeepers could be properly notified.”
Lawyer James Wirken, who represents Liu, asked for a sentencing hearing “as soon as possible,” noting that the federal prosecutor on the case had no objection to an earlier sentencing date, the paper reported.
“At this juncture, there is no reason to wait any longer to sentence the defendant, and to proceed with proper deportation proceedings after sentencing,” Wirken was quoted as saying.
According to the paper, Wirken said in his motion that Liu has been held in solitary confinement since her guilty plea on Nov. 18 and she had developed certain health issues since being in jail, including soreness and swelling of the gums and the skin around her mouth.
The case sparked a dispute between Taiwan and the US over the application of diplomatic immunity. Taiwan argued that Liu should be granted immunity, while the US said her immunity applied only to acts performed within the scope of her authorized functions.
Additional reporting by CNA