Woman Reaches Plea Deal in Smuggling Case

New York Times/March 31, 2006

Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (AP) -- A Haitian woman facing federal charges after a human skull was found in her luggage has reached a plea deal, her lawyer said Friday.

As a result, Myrlene Severe, 30, a permanent U.S. resident, may avoid deportation, said her attorney, Kenneth Hassett, who announced the deal Friday in federal court in Fort Lauderdale.

The remains were found when the woman arrived at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in February from Haiti. She told authorities she intended to use it as part of her Voodoo beliefs.

Severe was charged with smuggling a human head into the U.S. without proper documentation, failure to declare the head and transporting hazardous material in air commerce.

The plea deal would allow her to plead guilty at an April 12 hearing to a misdemeanor charge of improper storage of human remains, the South Florida Sun-Sentinal reported.

A misdemeanor conviction would less likely lead to deportation, her lawyer said.

Severe could have faced up to 15 years in jail. Now she could face less than a year in jail, probation and fines.

The U.S. attorney's office said in a statement that the agreement ''accurately reflects the totality of the circumstances.''

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