Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Haiti thug could face 25 years


Thursday, January 10th 2008, 1:42 AM

Reputed former�Haitian paramilitary terrorist Emmanuel (Toto) Constant rejected a plea deal on mortgage fraud charges Wednesday, opting for a trial at which he will face up to 25 years in prison if convicted.

Defense attorney Samuel Karlinen met briefly with his client briefly in a holding cell before informing Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Abraham Gerges that Constant did not wish to accept the offer of 3 to 9 years in prison in exchange for pleading guilty.

“I want him to be aware that the offer by the court is off the table,” Gerges said, and promptly scheduled the trial for Feb. 13.

Prosecutor Thomas Schellhammer of the state Attorney General’s Office estimated that the trial would last at least a month.

Constant, 51, is charged with defrauding lenders out of more than $1.7 million. He is now serving a 1 to 3 years as a result of pleading guilty to similar charges in Suffolk County.

But Constant’s bigger notoriety stems from his alleged leadership of a paramilitary death squad known as FRAPH – the Revolutionary Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti – in the early 1990s after the military overthrow of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in the early 1990s.

FRAPH was responsible for thousands of deaths as well as torture and rapes, according to the Center for Justice and Accountability, which represents three women who won civil lawsuits against Constant.

In 2006, a federal judge in Manhattan ordered Constant to pay $19 million to the women.

Constant fled Haiti in 1994 and settled in Queens. He still faces prosecution in Haiti for murder and torture.

Jennie Green, a senior attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights who has been monitoring the progress of Constant’s case in Brooklyn, yesterday expressed satisfaction that he didn’t take the plea deal, which would have only speeded up his eventual deportation.

She said the criminal justice system in Haiti remains unstable and there would be a good chance Constant could beat the rap due to corruption in the judiciary.

“We speak for the people who can’t be in the courtroom [in Brooklyn] because some are dead and others are too afraid to be here,” Green said.

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