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Constant Rejects Plea Bargain of Three to Nine Years
Jen Nessel, firstname.lastname@example.org
January 9, 2008, New York, NY – Today, Haitian former paramilitary leader Emmanuel “Toto” Constant rejected a plea bargain that would have given him a prison sentence of three to nine years in a mortgage fraud case, electing instead to go to trial. The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), which in 2006 won a landmark judgment in a civil case charging Constant with human rights abuses including massacres, gang-rapes, and other torture while leader of the paramilitary group FRAPH in Haiti, is pleased that Constant will finally go before a jury for some of his crimes. Constant faces multiple charges in his mortgage fraud case, with a maximum total sentence of 45 years.
“Emmanuel Constant deserves a long sentence for the atrocities he committed against the people of Haiti. Going to trial in the mortgage fraud case means that he will face a serious penalty for his economic crimes against the people of New York. We hope that one day, when the justice and prison systems in Haiti are stable, Constant will also face charges in Haiti for the campaign of rape and other crimes against humanity there,” said CCR Senior Attorney Jennie Green.
Constant was arrested in July 2006 in connection with a real estate mortgage fraud scheme in Suffolk County, NY and pled guilty in February 2007 to grand larceny and fraud in the case. He negotiated a plea bargain with the State that would have resulted in a maximum sentence of three years, with the possibility of time served and also immediate deportation back to Haiti.
CCR and the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) have been involved in Constant’s criminal case—in May 2007, State Supreme Court Judge Abraham Gerges dropped the initial plea agreement in Constant’s criminal case after receiving information from CCR about his record of human rights abuses and set a trial date. A second plea bargain was then negotiated, which Constant rejected today in favor of going to trial.
CCR has worked to hold Constant – the former leader of the notorious Haitian paramilitary death squad known as FRAPH (the Revolutionary Front for Haitian Advancement and Progress) – accountable for his crimes for more than a decade, from filing law suits to leading marches to his residence in Queens to working with grassroots groups in New York and Haiti to have him brought to justice. CCR, working with a coalition of Haitian and U.S. women’s organizations, went before the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which resulted in the condemnation of mass rape in Haiti by military and paramilitary forces including FRAPH.
Last fall, CCR, together with CJA and the law firm of Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal, won a $19 million civil judgment against Constant for crimes against humanity, attempted summary execution, and rape and other torture.
Following a violent military coup against democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1991, FRAPH, under Constant's leadership, committed massacres, gang-rapes and other torture. Two of the three plaintiffs in the federal civil lawsuit were gang-raped in front of their families. A third was attacked by two FRAPH operatives and left for dead.
A former paid CIA informant, Constant has been permitted to live in the U.S. since 1994 despite his crimes. After President Aristide returned to power, his government issued an arrest warrant for Constant, but Constant fled to the United States.
In the mid-1990s, CCR obtained documents from the U.S. government through a series of Freedom of Information Act Requests which confirmed the broad and systematic pattern of FRAPH abuses and revealed that Constant directly conspired in the assassination of President Aristide's Minister of Justice, Guy Malary.
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. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.