The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Haitian Death Squad Leader Toto Constant Sentenced to 12-37 Years in New York State Prison for Mortgage Fraud


Yesterday, Judge Abraham Gerges handed down a stiff sentence for
Haitian former death squad leader Emanuel "Toto" Constant who was found
guilty on all counts of grand larceny and mortgage fraud this summer.
Constant is to serve 12.3 to 37 years for his crimes against the people
of New York. Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) Senior Attorney Jennie Green issued the following statement in response:

"We are glad that Toto Constant will finally serve time for
some of his crimes. The sentence was far greater than the minimum plea
bargain initially offered, and we are pleased the judge took Constant's
crimes against the people of Haiti into account.

"One day, when the Haitian government and courts are in the
position to hold him accountable, Constant will return to Haiti to be
tried for murder, rape and other torture in his campaign of terror as
head of a paramilitary death squad. Until that time, we strongly urge
the U.S. not to deport him until Haiti has a judicial system in place
capable of trying him and a prison system capable of holding him.

Pamela Merchant, Executive Director of the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA), said:

"The severity of this sentence is a significant victory for
the thousands of people who were terrorized by Constant's death squads
in Haiti. It is also an example of how local law enforcement and the
human rights community can work together to deny safe haven to human
rights abusers. Our allies in Haiti seek some comfort in the knowledge
that Constant will remain in a New York prison for many years and
unable to cause further harm.

CCR and co-counsel the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) won
a $19 million judgment for Constant's victims in 2004. The Center for
Constitutional Rights (CCR) collected hundreds of letters asking the
judge to take into account Constant's history in Haiti in determining
the sentence.

Of note, Judge Abraham Gerges wrote in his sentencing:

"Given the uncertaintly of the political situation in Haiti
and the very real chance that defendant may be able to evade justice
due to the instability in the Haitian judicial system, it is this
court's hope that defendant remain in New York State for the full term
of incarceration, although it is apparent that the federal authorities
may move to deport him shortly.

According to the U.S. State Department's own reports, as the leader of
the paramilitary group, Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti
(FRAPH), Constant was responsible for murder, rape, and other torture
of thousands of Haitians in the early 1990's.

Constant fled Haiti to the U.S. in 1994 when a Haitian court issued a
warrant for his arrest. From 1996 until his arrest here for mortgage
fraud in 2006, Constant lived freely in Queens, despite international
outcry and extradition requests from Haiti for his crimes against

In 2004 CCR and CJA filed a federal suit against Constant on behalf of
three women who survived FRAPH's campaign of violence against women.
The court found Constant liable for torture, including rape; attempted
extrajudicial killing; and crimes against humanity, and he was ordered
to pay $19 million in damages. Nevertheless, Constant has continued to
deny culpability and refuses to comply with the order. In late July
2008, a U.S. federal court rejected attempts by Constant to have a 2004
case against him dismissed and the $19 million judgment for victims

Click here for more information on Doe v. Constant.

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. CCR is committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.

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