SANTA ANA, Calif. — Dressed in a jail-issued blue jumpsuit, a woman described by authorities as a Saudi royal princess appeared in an Orange County courtroom Thursday to face human trafficking charges that accuse her of forcing a Kenyan woman to work as a domestic servant.
Meshael Alayban, who stood in a gated section of the courtroom and had her hair pulled straight back, uttered, "Yes your honor" several times during the brief appearance in the Santa Ana courtroom. An Arabic-speaking interpreter translated the proceedings for the woman.
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas made a rare appearance in court to represent the prosecution. The woman's arraignment was continued until July 29.
Alayban was arrested early Wednesday by police at her home in a gated community in Irvine, Calif., where they say she forced the woman to work 16 hours a day, seven days a week, for $220 a month. She was unable to leave because Alayban kept the woman's passport and documents, police say.
In court Thursday, the judge approved a protective order that would prohibit Alayban from contacting the alleged victim or people close to her. The servant has only been identified in court as Jane Doe.
"We're gravely concerned about her personal safety and that of her family," said attorney Steve Baric, who represents the Kenyan woman. "My client was a slave to this woman."
Rackauckas, who represented the prosecution in court, said he expects that Alayban will post bail quickly. She will have to wear a GPS monitoring unit and will not be allowed to leave Orange County without approval of the court.
The alleged victim came to the U.S. with Alayban and her family in May. Both had temporary visas, Rackauckas said. The alleged victim had previously lived with the family in Saudi Arabia for about one year.
In addition to the Kenyan woman, police said officers found four other workers being held under similar circumstances at Alayban's residence.
Their passports had been locked up in a safe deposit box along with the alleged victim's, Rackauckas said. No charges have been filed in relation to the four other women, but Rackauckas said further charges are possible.
Orange County prosecutors identified Alayban as one of the wives of Saudi Prince Abdulrahman bin Nasser bin Abdulaziz al Saud. In a statement to the Los Angeles Times, Alayban's attorney, Paul S. Meyer, said there was no physical abuse, no physical restraint and that the complaints were about hours worked and wages paid.
"We intend to fully investigate this matter, and expect that the truth will resolve it," he said.