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18 February 2010
On Wednesday, Judge Bernard Saint-Vil released eight of the 10 missionaries and called their work "delicious. Needs a little pepper, perhaps." He held two others, including the group's leader, because they had visited Haiti previously to sell time-shares in Miami and free credit reports.
The bedraggled, sweat-stained missionaries were charged with failing to possess certificates. Although based on Napoleonic law, Haiti's justice system parallels that of the United States in many respects. The laws were changed after Hurricane Katrina showed the need for certification after natural disasters. In that crisis, federal officials subjected doctors to mind-numbing paperwork before letting them treat victims in New Orleans. Acres of trailers famously never completed their paperwork and sat unused throughout the crisis.
"I knew this moment would come when the truth would set me free," said Jim Allen of Amarillo, Texas. He conceded that an army of diplomats and politicians didn't exactly hurt, either. The missionaries spent a night in soft hotel beds before heading to connecting flights to Washington, where they will surround President Obama in a press conference in which he will take credit for doing something right.