, Salem, MA

April 13, 2010

Federal official seeks new trial

By Julie Manganis

SALEM — The lawyer for a top Homeland Security official convicted last month of encouraging an illegal immigrant to stay in the country is hoping to convince a judge that the jury got it wrong.

Lorraine Henderson, 52, of Salem, the now-suspended Boston-area director for Customs and Border Protection, was found guilty following a weeklong trial in U.S. District Court.

She's already scheduled to be back there for sentencing June 18. She faces up to five years in prison.

But her lawyer, in motions filed last week, wants Judge Douglas Woodlock to either set aside the jury's verdict and enter a judgment of acquittal, or grant Henderson a new trial.

Among lawyer Francis DiMento's arguments: Henderson did not break a law by hiring Brazilian national Fabiana Bitencourt to clean her home "intermittently," and that her offer to look into a means for Bitencourt to remain in the country legally does not amount to "encouraging" the woman to remain here.

Even though Henderson was caught on tape warning Bitencourt not to leave the country, her lawyer argues, that was simply a regular warning that immigration officials give all illegal aliens before they file the proper paperwork to remain here.

During the trial, Woodlock rejected similar arguments.

Prosecutors had not filed a response to the motion as of yesterday, and a hearing has not been scheduled.