Defense starts this week
in trial of factory owner

By Ron Staton
Associated Press

The defense is scheduled to begin calling witnesses Tuesday in the involuntary-servitude case against the owner of a now-closed American Samoa garment factory.

However, the trial may continue into next month.

Kil Soo Lee of South Korea and two of his managers, Virginia Solia'i and Robert Atimalala, are charged with holding hundreds of Vietnamese and Chinese workers in involuntary servitude at the Daewoosa Samoa Ltd. factory.

The defense is scheduled to start after prosecutors finish questioning their final witness and cross-examination Tuesday morning.

Defense attorneys have given prosecutors a list of the first 10 witnesses they expect to call next week, said Pamela Tamashiro, attorney for Solia'i.

Witnesses on the defense list include American Samoa Lt. Gov. Togiola Tulafono.

Tamashiro said it is difficult to predict how long the defense case will take because many of the witnesses are in American Samoa, and the twice-weekly flights to Honolulu are booked next week. Court sessions are not held Mondays, when U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway tends to other matters, and the Martin Luther King holiday Jan. 20 will cause an additional delay, she said.

Mollway will be attending a conference the last week of January, so it is questionable whether closing arguments will be made before the end of the month, Tamashiro said. Opening arguments began Oct. 23.

Lee, 52, is also charged with extortion, money laundering and attempting to bribe a bank official to influence his application for a $500,000 loan.

The factory in the U.S. territory 2,300 miles south of Hawaii had made clothes for J.C. Penney Co. and other retailers.

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