Los Angeles Times

4 more in Haiti leader’s slaying are sent to U.S.

The transfer comes as local judges looking into 2021 assassinat­ion face death threats.


SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Four key suspects in the killing of Haitian President Jovenel Moise were transferre­d to the United States for prosecutio­n as the case stagnates in Haiti amid death threats that have spooked local judges, U.S. officials announced Tuesday.

The suspects in U.S. government custody include James Solages, 37, and Joseph Vincent, 57, two Haitian Americans who were among the first arrested after Moise was shot 12 times at his private residence near the capital, Port-au-Prince, on July 7, 2021.

Also charged is Christian Emmanuel Sanon, an elderly pastor, doctor and failed businessma­n whom authoritie­s have identified as a key player. His associates have suggested he was duped by the real — and still unidentifi­ed — mastermind­s behind the assassinat­ion that has plunged Haiti deep into political chaos and unleashed a level of gang violence not seen in decades.

The fourth suspect was identified as Colombian citizen Germán Rivera García, 44, who is among nearly two dozen former Colombian soldiers charged in the case.

Rivera, along with Solages and Vincent, faces charges including conspiring to commit murder or kidnapping outside the U.S. and providing material support and resources resulting in death, the U.S. Justice Department said.

Sanon is charged with conspiring to smuggle goods from the U.S. and providing unlawful export informatio­n. Court documents state that he allegedly shipped 20 ballistic vests to Haiti but that the items shipped were described as “medical X-ray vests and school supplies.”

It was not immediatel­y known whether the four suspects had attorneys who could comment on the developmen­t. The men are scheduled to appear in federal court Wednesday in Miami.

A total of seven suspects are in U.S. custody. Dozens of others still languish in Haiti’s main penitentia­ry, which is severely overcrowde­d and often lacks food and water for inmates.

The case has reached a virtual standstill in Haiti, with local officials last year nominating a fifth judge to investigat­e the killing after four others were dismissed or resigned.

One judge told the Associated Press that his family asked him to not take the case because they feared for his life. Another judge stepped down after one of his assistants died under murky circumstan­ces.

Court documents state that exactly two months before Moise was killed, Vincent texted Solages a video of a cat “reacting alertly” to the sound of gunfire and that Solages laughed, prompting Vincent to respond: “That’s the way Jovenel will be pretty much, but (sooner) if you guys really up to it!”

The document states that Solages responded that “(this) cat will never come back,” and “trust me brother, we definitely working our final decision.”

Then in June, about 20 former Colombian soldiers were recruited to supposedly help arrest the president and protect Sanon, who envisioned himself as Haiti’s new leader. Rivera was in charge of that group, the documents state.

The plan was to detain Moise and whisk him to an unidentifi­ed location by plane, but that plot fell through when the suspects couldn’t find a plane or sufficient weapons, authoritie­s said.

A day before the killing, Solages falsely told other suspects that it was a CIA operation and that the mission was to kill the president, according to the documents. Shortly before the killing, authoritie­s said, Solages shouted that it was allegedly a Drug Enforcemen­t Administra­tion operation to ensure compliance from the president’s security detail.

About a year after the killing, U.S. authoritie­s say that they interviewe­d Solages, Vincent and Rivera while they were in Haitian custody and that they agreed to talk.

The other suspects already in U.S. custody are Haitian businessma­n Rodolphe Jaar, former Colombian soldier Mario Antonio Palacios and former Haitian Sen. John Joel Joseph.

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