“Hug my kids” is what Misael Chirino-Fernandez, 28, said he wanted to do after walking out of the Dickinson County Jail at 4:35 p.m. Tuesday.
Magistrate Judge Keith Collett could not find probable cause for a trial for human trafficking charges against Chirino-Fernandez or Alonzo Gutierrez Reyes, 23.
The two were arrested on April 3 and charged with human trafficking of a 13-year-old boy from Guatemala.
Speaking through his wife Monica Chirino, Chirino-Fernandez said he just wanted to go home to their four children after spending two months in the Dickinson County jail.
Monica said she and her husband operate a transportation business in Cleveland, Texas.
Chirino-Fernandez is from Cuba and came to the United States legally almost three years ago. Their business mostly transports household goods. In this case, he was hired to take Reyes and the 13-year-old boy, who he was told was 16, to Kentucky. The boy was going to Kentucky from Guatemala to work and send money home to pay the coyotes that brought him to the U.S.
Collett said Federal laws may have been broken, but not state laws or human trafficking statutes.
“Forced labor: I cannot get there,” he said. “There has been no probable cause. If the Federal government wanted to pursue it, it should have been here.”
Under Kansas law, human trafficking is the recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing or obtaining, by any means, a child knowing that the child, with or without force, fraud, threat or coercion, will be used to engage in: forced labor; involuntary servitude; or sexual gratification of the defendant or another involving the exchange of anything of value.
The case started when Chirino-Fernandez failed to properly use his turn signal a couple of times on Interstate 70 on April 3.
Since a 13-year-old boy was found in the vehicle who was not related to the other two passengers, authorities pursued human trafficking charges.
Language did became an issue as Chirino-Fernandez only speaks Spanish. Reyes speaks Spanish and some K’iche. The 13-year-old spoke some Spanish but mostly K’iche, the native language of his home in Joyabaj, Guatemala.
At a May 27 preliminary hearing the 13-year-old said through an interpreter speaking K’iche his parents paid roughly $1,956 U.S. to get him to the United States. He crossed the border in Texas and he was released into the country. He took a bus to Syracuse, Kan., and was being transported to Kentucky where his cousin’s husband, identified as Domingo Lorenzo Zacarias, would find him work as a dishwasher to pay back the money.
Reyes’ attorney Pam Sullivan said that at the May preliminary hearing when asked why he came to the United States, he replied, “I want to work. I want to get money.”
Asked if he wanted to return to his parents in Guatemala, he said “no.”
“I will get lazy at home,” he said.
“I don’t want to go back. There is no money,” he said later.
Sullivan said there was no coercion.
Asked what would happen if the money was not paid back, the 13-year-old said his family could lose their home.
Brandon Barrett, representing Chirino-Fernandez, said the trip was a business deal.
“That’s Uber. That’s a taxi. It has nothing related to involuntary work,” he said.
He called the deal a mortgage on property.
“If taking out a loan is coercion, than I am under coercion from the Federal government,” Barrett said.
Collett agreed, saying there are people in the courtroom that, “if they don’t work might lose their home, then we are all under forced labor,” he said.
Collett said the 13-year-old “gave a fountain of misinformation.”
“The one thing he always said was he wants to get to work. He said ‘I want to work.’”
Monica Chirino said she did not know what would happen to the 13-year-old boy.
“We don’t know them,” she said. “That is something Domingo would have to figure out.”
Contact Tim Horan at email@example.com.