SANTA ANA, Calif. – A Saudi princess was scheduled to appear in a Southern California courtroom Friday to answer to charges that she took her maid's passport and forced her to work long hours for meager pay.
Meshael Alayban, 42, was expected to be arraigned on one count of human trafficking, and faces up to 12 years in prison if convicted.
Prosecutors said Alayban took the maid's passport after the royal family traveled to Irvine, and paid her a fraction of what she was promised.
The maid escaped from Alayban's condo in July, got on a bus and told a passenger her story, authorities said. The passenger helped her contact police, who searched the Irvine condominium where Alayban and her family were staying.
Alayban and her attorneys have likened the issue to a contract dispute and said the maid and her counterparts were treated well.
"The nannies traveled to the U.S. on $10,000 first-class tickets," a statement read by Alayban's attorneys outside a July hearing said. "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."
But District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said the circumstances were closer to slavery.
"This is not a contract dispute," Rackauckas said at an earlier bail hearing. "This is holding someone captive against their will."
Alayban is free on $5 million in bail posted by the Saudi consulate.
Her arraignment was rescheduled for Friday after Alayban failed to appear for a July arraignment.
A judge said he was "concerned" about her absence at the hearing. But Alayban's attorneys said she was complying with all court orders, including instructions she not leave Orange County without prior court authorization.