Solicitor: Feidin Santana paid for flight to country, was reimbursed after Michael Slager trial
Feidin Santana paid for his own flight to the U.S. to testify at Michael Slager’s murder trial, a prosecutor said Thursday.
It wasn’t until after the proceeding, which ended in a hung jury, when the state reimbursed him for the trek, 9th Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said.
Wilson clarified her office’s handling of expenses for the eyewitness who filmed Slager, a former North Charleston policeman, shooting Walter Scott in April 2015. The evidence prompted Slager’s arrest on a murder charge.
The former lawman’s defense team had raised concerns earlier this week about whether a listing of payments contradicted Santana’s testimony during the trial that he had paid for his flight from his native Dominican Republic.
“We have made every effort to be transparent regarding Mr. Santana,” Wilson said in a statement, though she contended that she wasn’t required to reveal such information to the defense.
The prosecutor said she planned to respond formally to lawyer Andy Savage’s motion that sought further details about Santana’s expenses.
In all, the authorities paid more than $6,600 related to Santana’s visit in Charleston for the trial. Most of that went directly to his hotel.
Wilson said the defense motion’s listing of “per diem” payments had actually been dished out for a period of several days, not daily. Altogether, the state gave Santana $1,925 over 77 days. That was $25 each day to pay for meals, which Wilson said is “painfully low” but is in line with a policy for county employees and with procedures used for other witnesses.
Santana was in town by Sept. 20, well ahead of the Oct. 31 trial date. Wilson said Thursday that she hoped to get him here early and serve him with a subpoena to ensure the presence of the only eyewitness and possibly the only person who could authenticate the shooting video. It was “unnerving” to know, she said, that a subpoena could not reach Santana in the Dominican.
Santana’s trust in the authorities also was shaky. That’s why he paid for his plane tickets to the country, he testified during the trial.
“I thought the jury should know that he came back to the U.S. on his own dime,” Wilson said, “and that we could not have forced his return.”
But the confusion about his journey and who paid for it arose this week in the defense motion because he made the trip in segments. Santana first flew to someplace other than Charleston, Wilson said, but the state paid for the second leg of his journey to the Holy City.
After the trial, he thought twice about paying for the first leg and got the state to reimburse him.
While the prosecutors were concerned at first about making sure he showed up, Santana followed through in the end, Wilson said.
“Fortunately,” she said, “Santana remained cooperative throughout the trial.”
And, she said, Santana did not ask for any help getting home.