BY Alfonso Chardy, Miami Herald
March 31, 2006
Every year Carl Dorelien looked forward to May 15. That’s when the Florida Lottery paid his annual $159,000 installment from a $3.2 million Lotto jackpot the won in 1997. But he’s no longer getting the money. A state judge has frozen Dorelien’s winnings in connection with a lawsuit from the Center for Justice & Accountability, a San Francisco-based human rights organization that targets foreign-born torture suspects who live or have lived in the United States. Dorelien, a former Haitian army colonel, was deported in 2003 after an immigration judge found him to be a human rights violator. He was the highest-ranking military officer expelled from the United States since former Argentine Gen. Carlos Guillermo Suárez Masón was extradited in 1988. Now the Dorelien case is back in federal court in Miami, which will determine later this year whether he’s liable for the 1994 murder of Michel Pierre, and the torture in 1993 of Lexiuste Cajuste, a former labor leader who now lives in Jacksonville. The justice center is suing on behalf of Pierre’s widow and Cajuste. Cajuste told The Miami Herald last week that he was tortured at a police station in Port-au-Prince, where tormentors put him in a fetal-like position next to a bed — his legs and head under the bed frame with his back and buttocks exposed. Then, he said, torturers jumped from the bed onto his back while others took turns beating his buttocks with wooden batons. ”They beat me until I lost consciousness,” Cajuste, 58, said. Cajuste was arrested after he went to a radio station to deliver a news release calling for a general strike.
A COUP LEADER
The Dorelien case hinges on whether the former colonel is responsible for Cajuste’s torture and an April 1994 rampage when soldiers and paramilitary allies stormed Raboteau, a poor seaside neighborhood of Gonaves known as a stronghold of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who had been overthrown in a military coup three years earlier. Dorelien was among coup leaders and served as chief of personnel for the armed forces. At least 26 unarmed men, women and children were killed during the two-day rampage, among them Pierre. The case is a labyrinth of legal maneuvers in state and federal courts and changing political winds in Haiti.
The federal appellate court in Atlanta reinstated the case in December, after a federal judge in Miami had dismissed it. A separate case on the Lotto winnings, which have been frozen since September 2004 when a state judge put the money into an escrow account beyond Dorelien’s reach, remains pending. At one point, Dorelien attempted to sell his rights to the annual lottery payments to a Baltimore firm in exchange for a lump sum. Complicating the case further was Haiti’s Supreme Court ruling in May overturning the convictions of some defendants in the Raboteau massacre. It’s unclear if Dorelien was among those exonerated.
CONVICTED IN ABSENTIA
In 2000, a Haitian court convicted Dorelien in absentia on charges of conspiracy and complicity in the Raboteau massacre. He was sentenced to hard labor for life, but spent only about a year behind bars in Haiti after his deportation from the United States. ”We are thrilled that the Eleventh Circuit reinstated the case against Col. Dorelien,” said Moira Feeney, an attorney with the justice center, which is pursuing the case alongside pro-bono attorneys from Miami’s Holland & Knight office. “Now, hopefully, we can turn the injustice of Dorelien winning the lottery into justice for the many that suffered atrocities committed under his watch.” Dorelien’s Miami attorney, Kurt Klaus, said his client is not responsible for the deaths or torture. ”He had no direct control of the troops,” said Klaus. “The only reason they went after him is because he is Haitian, won the Lotto and had been in the Haitian army at the time of the massacre.” After U.S. forces landed in Haiti and restored Aristide to power in 1994, Dorelien left for South Florida. He sought asylum and settled in Port St. Lucie.
In 1997 he bought a Lotto ticket and on June 28 that year won half of a $6.3-million jackpot. The winning numbers: 5-7-10-15-25-47. Dorelien did not collect his $3.2-million jackpot in one payment because the Florida Lottery did not begin offering lump sum payments until 1999. Dorelien was to receive 20 annual installments of $159,000. Feeney said Dorelien’s overturned Haitian conviction should have no effect on the two cases before U.S. courts. Feeney said it was the center’s interpretation that the overturned conviction affects defendants who were present at trial. Klaus said his client was covered by the high court’s decision. After being convicted in Haiti, Dorelien was ordered to pay Raboteau victims one billion Haitian gourdes or about $28 million. Michel Pierre’s wife was a party to that judgment, according to the justice center. Klaus maintains the $28 million judgment was voided as well. Feeney said it stands. For now, at least, Dorelien’s winnings remain locked up by a judge, waiting for state and federal courts to mete out justice.
To view the Center for Justice & Accountability website, link to www.cja.org.