Sect member loses bid to represent self in starvation trial

Associated Press/June 4, 2002
By Denise Lavoie

Fall River, Mass. -- The trial of a religious sect member charged with starving to death his infant son was delayed Tuesday after the man said he wanted to be his own attorney because he was worried how he would be portrayed.

Jacques Robidoux, 29, stood up before lawyers were to begin their opening statements Tuesday and told the judge he was worried his lawyer, Francis O'Boy, would play into stereotypes already alive in the media.

''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 we're not The Body. That's just a general term that even the Bible has used (for) people who follow God, follow Christ.''

If the defense focuses on ''The Body,'' Robidoux said, it would ''give them (jurors) the entire wrong impression.''

Judge Elizabeth B. Donovan denied Robidoux's request to represent himself after questioning him about whether he had any legal experience or whether he'd ever defended himself in court.

Robidoux did say he once represented himself in Attleboro Juvenile Court. The case ended with his children being placed in state custody.

The judge rescheduled opening statements for Wednesday morning in Taunton Superior Court.

Prosecutors say Robidoux withheld solid food from his 10-month-old son, Samuel, after the child's aunt said she received a message from God directing him to do so. He has pleaded innocent.

The child's mother, Karen Robidoux, is charged with second-degree murder and faces a separate trial. His aunt, Michelle Robidoux Mingo, also will be tried later on a charge of accessory to assault and battery on a child.

Samuel's body was found buried alongside the body of his newborn cousin in a state park in Maine.

O'Boy said although he will represent Robidoux during the trial, Robidoux plans to present his own motion before opening statements Wednesday. In the motion, Robidoux says he believes the district attorney's office does not have jurisdiction over him because he and his wife have ''declared their independence and expatriated themselves.''

In a legal advertisement that appeared in The Sun Chronicle of Attleboro Tuesday, Roland Robidoux, the father of Jacques, also referred to his son's ''declaration of independence'' from the government. The advertisement says that any ties ''implied by the operation of law or otherwise in trust with the democracy is hereby dissolved.''

The sect rejects modern medicine, schools and the government.

David and Rebecca Corneau, whose son was buried with Samuel Robidoux, have been jailed since February for refusing to cooperate with state investigators who are seeking information about Rebecca Corneau's latest birth, believed to have been last fall.

Bristol County Juvenile Judge Kenneth Nasif on Tuesday indicated he might free the Corneaus after another contempt hearing scheduled for June 18, according to their lawyer, J.W. Carney.

The state Department of Social Services believes the Corneaus may be hiding the baby, and it may be in danger. Carney maintains has argued the state has no proof a baby ever existed and has said Rebecca Corneau had a miscarriage in November. He said the Corneaus are being persecuted for their religious beliefs.

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