MIAMI (AP) – Two Haitian men testified Tuesday that a Michigan man forced them to perform sexual acts on him when they were children living at a residential center for poor children in Haiti’s capital.
One man, now 28 and living in Boston, said he felt he had no choice but to comply with the sexual demands of Matthew Andrew Carter, the man who paid for his food, clothes and education.
“If you refused him, he’d get very upset. He’d look at you in ways that made you think that he’d eat you alive,” the man testified. The Associated Press generally does not identify victims of alleged sexual abuse.
Carter, of Brighton, Mich., faces five counts of traveling from Florida to Haiti for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity with minors, along with one count of attempting child sex tourism. His trial began Tuesday in Miami federal court.
The 67-year-old 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, first in Croix-des-Bouquets and then in Port-au-Prince, 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 used the Morning Star Center as “a sexual playground” where he preyed on the boys in his care, prosecutor Maria Medetis said in opening statements.
Carter’s attorney, Phil Horowitz, said children lived at the center with their parents’ permission and were always free to leave. 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, where he’d take them from their beds into his bedroom in the middle of the night to perform sexual acts, Medetis said.
The 28-year-old witness said Carter sexually abused him from the ages of 9 through 14. Gifts of clothes and shoes were replaced with hostility as he grew older, said the witness, who went to live with Carter around the same time that his mother died.
“When he realized he could no longer use me, he was just very mean to me, just to make me realize I was no longer welcome. After a while I decided to go home because I could no longer live there,” he said.
A 31-year-old witness who went to live with Carter at age 14, said he never reported the sexual abuse he experienced and witnessed because of Carter’s status in the community.
“After I left his house, I was scared of him. As time goes by, he became very powerful,” he said.
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