Florida woman facing 30 years jail for sex with 16-year-old boy stripped of Canadian refugee status | National Post
A Florida woman must again make her case for refugee status in Canada after fleeing north of the border to avoid a 30-year prison sentence in the United States for having sex with a 16-year-old boy who was on her son’s baseball team
Denise Harvey, 47, came to Canada with her husband in 2010, before she could be sent to prison in Florida, and claimed refugee status saying she faced “cruel and unusual punishment” from the lengthy prison sentence after her convictions on five counts of unlawful sexual activity with a minor.
The Immigration and Refugee Board granted her asylum, ruling her actions would not constitute a crime if she had carried them out in Canada, a decision that was appealed to the Federal Court of Canada.
In a decision released Thursday, Justice Anne Mactavish granted the appeal, stripping Ms. Harvey of her refugee status for now, but allowing her a chance to again argue one element of her case.
That was greeted as good news in the State Attorney’s Office in Indian River County.
“We’ve been actively pursuing her but of course we were dead-ended by the Canadian government who granted her refugee status,” said Nikki Robinson, assistant state attorney who was a prosecutor of the original case.
A jury heard in 2008 that Ms. Harvey met the victim at her son’s baseball practices and began flirting with him and he reciprocated.
“It went from there,” said Ms. Robinson.
Five times the two had sex, in the victim’s father’s house and after hours in her office, where she worked as a mortgage broker. His sister once walked in on them.
The jury also heard conversations with the victim after Ms. Harvey’s arrest in which she encourage him to lie to police and to try to blackmail his sister into not cooperating with the investigation, Ms. Robinson said.
In Florida, it is against the law for someone over the age of 24 to have sex with someone under the age of 18. In Canada, the age of consent is 16 unless the older person is in a position of authority over the younger person.
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“She clearly acknowledged on all of these controlled phone calls that what she was doing was wrong,” Ms. Robinson said. “She knew what the law was and we’re all bound by the law.”
After the jury’s guilty verdict, Ms. Harvey was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the five convictions.
Her appeal of the verdict was denied and her sentence affirmed in February 2011. Ms. Harvey, however, did not turn herself in. When authorities went looking, they found she had fled her Vero Beach home months earlier.
Originally arrested near Saskatoon in 2011, she faced extradition but made a refugee claim. The Immigration and Refugee Board found she was a person in need of protection as someone facing cruel and unusual punishment by Canada’s standards, imposed on her in disregard of accepted international standards.
‘She knew what the law was and we’re all bound by the law’
Canada’s Minister of Citizenship and Immigration sought to overturn that decision and won a temporary victory. Judge Mactavish ruled the IRB had not provided adequate reasoning on one element of its decision.
“The board’s reasons in this case were careful and thoughtful. However, on this one issue, the board was entirely silent. We do not know which of Ms. Harvey’s arguments on the question of ‘accepted international standards’ were or were not accepted and why that was,” wrote Judge Mactavish.
The case was turned back to the IRB to re-evaluate that one element of the case.
“I’m hoping we’ll see her back,” said Ms. Robinson. “We’ll follow it up with the U.S. Marshal’s Office.”