An Attleboro cultist charged with starving his son to death claims he can't be tried for murder because he is a member of a sovereign nation not subject to American law.
"The District Attorney's office . . . is without jurisdiction in regards to said defendant,'' Jacques Robidoux wrote in a motion filed yesterday seeking to have murder charges against him tossed out.
Robidoux, 29, said he and his 26-year-old wife, Karen - both charged with starving their 10-month-old son Samuel to death in 1999 - have "declared their independence and expatriated themselves'' from the United States. He also claims his attorney, Frank O'Boy, doesn't know how to "portray'' him correctly, so he wants to defend himself.
"Whenever the media has referred to us, they've always referred to us as the sect, the cult, the body,'' Robidoux said. "Over a period of time, I've tried to explain (to O'Boy) we're not the body. That's just a general term that the Bible uses (for) people who follow God.''
It is the second time during the three-year saga of the Attleboro sect that Robidoux has claimed sovereignty. The last time was during a child protection hearing in Attleboro Juvenile Court in which Robidoux represented himself. He ended up losing his children to the Department of Social Services.
Opening statements in his murder trial had been scheduled for yesterday afternoon but were put off after Robidoux petitioned the court to represent himself. Judge Elizabeth Donovan denied the request after Robidoux admitted he had no legal training, little understanding of court procedure and no cross-examination skills.
O'Boy said he had "no idea'' the reputed cult leader was planning such a tactic. "I am still a little lost as to his rationale behind it,'' he said.
O'Boy will stay on the case and plans to focus on the medical evidence, not Robidoux's controversial religious beliefs. He says the couple was perhaps negligent and undernourished the child but did not intend to kill him.
Prosecutors say the Robidouxes starved the boy to death to fulfill a bizarre religious prophecy allegedly handed down by Samuel's aunt, Michelle Mingo, that said the boy was to be denied solid food. Karen Robidoux will be tried separately on second-degree murder charges while Mingo faces accessory charges.
Along with journals graphically chronicling Samuel's three-week starvation, prosecutors will introduce a letter of support Jacques Robidoux wrote to Wiley and Kelly Johnson of Tampa, Fla. The Johnsons, members of a similar fringe religious group, were accused of negligence for failing to take their baby to a doctor after the child sustained 200 bee stings and died. They were acquitted.
In the letter, Robidoux admitted watching Samuel become "emaciated'' to the point he could "barely roll over,'' but urged the Johnsons to follow God.
"Yet in all this I see through God's eyes. Karen and I are the ones He is concerned with,'' Robidoux wrote. "The Lord sees not physical suffering, but spiritual suffering.''
Samuel was missing for months before cult member David Corneau cut an immunity deal and led authorities to a makeshift grave in Maine's Baxter State Park. Buried alongside Samuel was Corneau's infant son, Jeremiah, who died during a home birth.
Corneau and his wife, Rebecca, have been jailed since February on unrelated charges for refusing to cooperate with a probe into what happened to their latest baby. The couple says the child died in a miscarriage last fall but authorities fear the baby was killed or is being hidden out of state with other cultists. The Corneaus were sent back to jail yesterday until a June 18 hearing.