October 29, 2008, New York – 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 humanity.
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 revoked.