Four key suspects in the assassination of the Haitian president appeared before a US judge
Four key suspects in the assassination of Haiti’s president Jovenel Moiseincluding a former Colombian soldier, appeared for the first time Wednesday in a South Florida federal court to face charges that they plotted and participated in the assassination, a day after being transferred to the United States.
The Colombian Germán Rivera García and Haitian-Americans James Solages, Joseph Vincent and Christian Emmanuel Sanon They looked calm during the 30-minute hearing held in one of the federal court buildings in downtown Miami. They wore beige convict uniforms, wore masks, handcuffs and shackles on their ankles.
They did not speak, except to ask Judge Alicia Otazo-Reyes for a lawyer paid by the government when the magistrate asked each one separately if they had the financial resources to face their defense.
“Can you afford a lawyer?” Otazo-Reyes questioned Rivera García, the last of the four to call to ask if they had understood what their rights were and read their accusations to him.
“I would like one from the court,” replied the Colombian, the only one who spoke in Spanish and used headphones to listen to the translation of the hearing, which took place in English. Like him, the other three defendants answered “no” when the magistrate asked them if they had a job, savings or property..
Otazo-Reyes appointed each of the four a different lawyer.
Solages, 37, Vincent, 57, and Rivera García, 44, were among the first arrested. after Moïse was shot 12 times in his private home in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince on July 7, 2021. The three are accused of conspiracy to commit murder or kidnapping in another country, and of providing material aid and resources that resulted in death.
Sanon, a 54-year-old pastor, doctor and businessman, is charged with conspiring to smuggle items into the United States and submitting illegal export information. Court documents indicate that he allegedly shipped 20 body armor vests to Haiti, but the shipment description read “medical X-ray vests and school supplies.”
If found guilty, Solages, Vincent and Rivera face a maximum sentence of life in prison. sanon, whose relatives have suggested that he was tricked by the true masterminds of the murder who have not yet been identified, He faces a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
At the hearing, prosecutors requested that the four defendants remain in federal prison, saying they could fly out of the country if released.
The judge set a bail hearing for February 6 and another for the formal presentation of the charges in which they could plead not guilty or guilty, for February 15.
In total there are seven suspects who are now detained in South Florida and face charges in federal courts for their alleged participation in the assassination of the Haitian leader.
Among them appear Rivera García and Mario Palacios, two of about 20 former Colombian police officers facing charges.
Another of the suspects who is in the United States is rodolphe jaara Haitian businessman who served as an informant for the US government and was transferred from the Dominican Republic, where he was arrested in January 2022.
Palacios was deported by Jamaica after fleeing Haiti. He was detained by US officials in Panama at a stop he made while en route to Colombia.
In January 2022 the authorities arrested the Haitian senator John Joël Josephwho had also escaped to Jamaica.
In Haiti, the case is stalled, amid death threats that have scared judges.
According to court documents, two months before Moïse’s murder, Vincent texted Solages a video of a cat “reacting alert” to the sound of gunshots. Solages laughed and Vincent replied: “This is how Jovenel will be, but (before) if you really do it!”. Then Solages replied that “(this) cat will never come back” and “believe me bro, we are definitely working on our final decision”according to the documents.
Later, in June, some 20 former Colombian soldiers were recruited to allegedly help arrest the president and protect Sanon, who had aspirations to become Haiti’s new leader. Rivera Garcia was the leader of the group, according to documents filed by prosecutors in the South Florida case.
Authorities said the plan was to detain Moïse and fly him to an unidentified location, but the plan fell through when the suspects could not find a plane or enough weapons.
A day before the massacre, Solages lied to other suspects that he was a CIA operative and that his mission was to kill the president, according to the documents. Shortly before the assassination, authorities said, Solages yelled that it was supposedly a DEA operation to ensure compliance by the president’s security team.
(with information from AP)