Convicted couple seeks information for new trial

Lawyers for a Litchfield couple convicted under federal forced-labor statutes are seeking access to previously unreleased information that they claim would establish the need for a new trial.

Kate O’Dell and Timothy Bradley were both found guilty of 18 counts related to forced labor and wire fraud.

When a jury found the Litchfield couple guilty this summer, it was only the second time in the country a conviction has been handed down under federal forced-labor statutes.

The charges resulted from a program in which O’Dell and Bradley brought five workers from Jamaica to work for Bradley’s Tree Service and live on the couple’s property.

The couple’s sentencing at federal court was postponed Tuesday in response to a motion by Bradley’s attorney, Steven Gordon.

The defense wants to see the five workers’ visa applications, which may contain information that would be relevant for a motion for a new trial, Gordon said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Zuckerman declined to comment on Gordon’s motion, saying, “We’re confident that there won’t be any basis to challenge the conviction.”

Four of the workers testified at the trial, saying the couple told them they would make $11 to $15 an hour or $15 to $20 an hour working for the tree service. Once they arrived, the workers said, they were paid $8 an hour.

The couple contended, however, that the $8 was the promised rate from the beginning.

Some of the men also testified that the couple took away their passports and airplane tickets, preventing them from leaving, and that they were forced to live in crude conditions in a camper and shed on the couple’s property.

The defense requested information about the visas after the trial, only to be told that the visa applications were considered exempt material and could not _be released, according to court documents.

“The documents sought may reveal that Garth Clark, Livingston Wilson, David Hutchinson, Andrew Flynn or Martin Saddler were, in fact, shown documents demonstrating that their rate of pay would be $8 per hour,” states a motion requesting the applications.

The goal is to learn more information about what was said when the workers applied for visas, said Gordon, who began representing Bradley after the trial. There have been conflicting stories about the information on the applications and even their existence, he said.

“We’re hoping to learn the truth,” Gordon said. “As Daniel Webster said, ‘The truth will set you free.’ ”

The case, at U.S. District Court, was the first in New Hampshire to be tried under federal slavery laws that were broadened in 2000 to include more types of seasonal employment.