Saturday, June 15, 2013

Dominion Republic: Update--Canadian Groom, Cousin Reportedly Assaulted, Seriously Injured Montrealer

As a follow-up to my posting of June 12, concerning the arrest of Canadian newlywed, Nick Miele, 34, and his cousin, Ben Constanini, who were arrested by Dominican police on May 28, after a fight at the Bahia Principe Esmeralda resort in Punta Cana. 
 
Nick Miele, 34, and his cousin, Ben Constantini, 18, both from Stoney Creek, Ontario, have been in jail since the early morning hours of May 28, just hours after Miele and Stacey Vernon, 31, exchanged marriage vows at the resort.

Although Ms. Vernon had earlier said that Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) has been of little help to her husband and his cousin, there seem to be new facts developing in the altercation.
 
COMMENT: A medical report indicates that the man who allegedly sustained serious head trauma and facial wounds, was taken to a Santo Domingo hospital and returned to Montreal via air ambulance on June 1. As I have said in the past, air ambulance services can easily run into six figures regardless of whether the currency is Canadian or US.

Miele and Costantini have been charged with physical aggression and have been detained for three months to give the state time to search for evidence. The court has also documented the fact that if the two Canadians were not jailed, they would be a flight risk.

The two Canadians had a preliminary trial on May 30 at which point they were both sentenced to 90 days in jail pending completion of the police investigation. 

Although Ms. Vernon, 31, was initially outraged on how her husband and his cousin were being treated and objected vigorously to the two Canadians' being jailed for three months while the government prepares it case, what was omitted in my earlier report is that the wife of a Montreal resident has told authorities that Miele and Constanini, both from Hamilton, assaulted her husband, causing serious injury.

Deepak Obhrai, parliamentary secretary (Foreign Affairs), said the two men have been incarcerated for allegedly injuring another Canadian citizen.

As I said in my posting of June 12,  many foreign travelers who go abroad fail to realize that when they leave their homeland they have only the rights accorded to them by a foreign government, in this case, the Dominican Republic, which hardly has a stellar criminal justice system.

Having given countless briefings to foreign travelers over the years, I have always emphasized that the appropriate foreign affairs agencies of travelers abroad can do little more than communicate the arrest of a foreign traveler to their families at home, provide them a list of attorneys and represent their interests if they are mistreated while in police custody.

Foreign embassies and foreign affairs agencies cannot: (1) arrange for the release of detained foreigners; (2) post bond, if it is even available; (3) arrange for better treatment while in detention; and (4) attend all hearings conducted for detained foreigners, considering that many embassies are not staffed to fulfill such a role.

All foreign travelers have the responsibility to avoid getting into trouble and avoiding police contact at all costs. Not doing so increases the risk of arrest, detention, costly attorneys, etc. Clearly, being a foreigner does not accord any detainee special privileges or exceptions.

Considering that Messrs. Miele and Constantini were not hospitalized indicates that the assault victim from Montreal sustained major injuries, which suggests that Miele and Constantini take their incarceration "like men," until the Dominican police compare all testimony and forensic evidence and determine the facts of the case.

The one role most foreign embassies can fulfill is to notify the families of detained foreigners back home, so that they can assist in retaining local counsel and help financially.