(FOX 11 / CNS) A human-trafficking case against a Saudi princess in California has been dismissed.
The surprise announcement came Friday as 42-year-old Meshael Alayban was to have been arraigned in Orange County Superior Court on a charge that could have brought as many as 12 years in prison upon conviction.
The charge was filed this summer after a Kenyan maid alleged the princess had taken away her passport and forced her to work long hours without pay.
At the last hearing for Meshael Alayban, 42, who is charged with felony human trafficking, her attorneys said the housekeeper traveled to Orange County in first class, had her own cellphone and shopped at neighborhood malls on the employer's dime.
Alayban was released on $5 million bail in July but is wearing a GPS device to track her movements and is not allowed to leave Orange County without permission.
After the July 29 hearing, Alayban's attorneys Paul S. Meyer and Jennifer Keller, said the alleged victim and four other "nannies" for Alayban "traveled to the U.S. on $10,000 first-class tickets, along with the family. These women had cellphones, Internet, Facebook, and the family even bought cable in their native language for them.
"They enjoyed full use of the spa, gym and pool and were often dropped off to shop alone at neighborhood malls, all paid for by the family."
Investigators will consider any evidence produced by defense attorneys, said Susan Kang Schroeder, chief of staff for Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas.
Schroeder added, "As far as traveling first class, who's going to take care of the kids in the air unless they're all in first class."
Alayban is one of the six wives of Prince Abdulrahman bin Nasser bin Abdulaziz al Saud, a grandson of Saudi King Abdullah, according to authorities. The charge against Alayban marks the first case of forced labor human trafficking to be prosecuted in Orange County under terms of Proposition 35, approved by voters in November. The new law increased Alayban's potential punishment if she is convicted from about six years to 12 years behind bars, according to Rackauckas.
Rackauckas has characterized the case as "an example of forced labor." Previously, he has appeared for the prosecution, but Deputy District Attorney Mike Murray, an experienced homicide prosecutor, is taking over.
The alleged victim, a 30-year-old woman from Kenya, left Alayban's condominium July 9 and flagged down a passing bus, Irvine police Lt. Julia Engen said.
The woman sought employment because her 7-year-old daughter is ill and she needed money for medical care, Rackauckas said. She was hired to cook, clean and do other household chores in her employer's palace, according to prosecutors.
When the woman reported for duty, her passport was taken from her and she was made work excessively long hours for a fraction of the agreed-upon salary, Engen said. She complained and asked for her passport back, but it was refused, Engen said.
Prosecutors said the victim worked 16 hours every day with no days off. She allegedly was paid $220 a month, not the $1,600 she had been promised, and she was not allowed to return to Kenya. Her contract stated she would be able to return to Kenya after three months if she wished, but the document was "torn up" when she reported for work, Rackauckas said.