28 Dec 2014

Trial date set for abuse case in Marshall Islands

1:12 pm on 28 December 2014

Three people in the Marshall Islands are slated to go to trial on charges of child abuse and neglect 18 months after a video posted on social media showed a group of adults helping a toddler smoke a cigarette and drink beer.

A High Court judge has set a trial date of February 16 for Karaitman Ataia, Timson Jeilar and Melissa Ataia.

The three are charged with two counts each of child abuse and neglect and criminal conspiracy, and one count of sale of tobacco to minors.

A video taken in July 2013 at a house in Majuro showed several adults helping a 21-month-old toddler smoke a cigarette and drink from a can of beer.

The video shows the toddler dropping the burning cigarette onto his stomach and screaming from the burn.

The footage sparked outrage in the community and led to the arrest and subsequent criminal charges against the three defendants.

The case has been slow to be prosecuted because, according to law enforcement officials, two of the three defendants fled to a remote outer island after the charges were filed in 2013.