Haitian American becomes 1st US citizen to plead guilty in plot to kill Haiti’s president
Miami Herald December 5, 2023
(Tribune News Service) — A Haitian-American man from South Florida Tuesday became the first U.S. citizen to plead guilty to conspiring to kill Haiti’s president, admitting that he attended key meetings to carry out the assassination more than two years ago.
In doing so, Joseph Vincent also became the fourth of 11 defendants charged in the Miami federal case to accept responsibility for his supporting role in the murder plot spanning South Florida, Haiti and Colombia.
Vincent, 58, admitted that he met with a group of co-conspirators in Haiti on the eve of the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse on July 7, 2021, in a factual statement filed with his plea agreement. He also wore a U.S. State Department pin to make himself look official to his Haitian counterparts, the statement says. He also participated in a plan to stir up protests against Haiti’s leader and use them as a cover to remove Moïse by force using weapons.
And lastly, the statement says, he joined other co-conspirators in a vehicle that drove to the president’s home outside Port-au-Prince when a group of Colombian commandos killed him during the nighttime ambush.
U.S. District Judge Jose Martinez asked Vincent if all this information was “true” at Tuesday’s hearing.
“Yes, it’s true, your honor,” Vincent told the judge.
Faces up to life in prison
Vincent pleaded guilty to conspiring to provide material support in the assassination, providing that support, and conspiring to kill or kidnap a person outside the United States. He faces up to life in prison at his sentencing hearing before Judge Martinez on Feb. 9, 2024.
At the hearing, federal prosecutor Frank Russo highlighted his role in the murder conspiracy: “Vincent provided advice to his co-conspirators about the Haitian political landscape, attended meetings with important Haitian political and community leaders, and frequently wore a U.S. State Department pin, which had the effect of leading others to believe that he was employed by the U.S. State Department.”
Vincent, a former informant with the Drug Enforcement Administration, is expected to be a key cooperating witness against other co-conspirators, including fellow Haitian American James Solages. Solages is accused of collaborating with CTU Security, a Doral-based security company owned and operated by Antonio Intriago, a defendant in the case who met with Solages in South Florida and in Haiti before Moïse’s assassination.
Solages also drove the vehicle with top Colombian commandos, Vincent and others to the president’s home for the deadly attack, court records show. And Solages yelled it was a “DEA operation” as the assault was unfolding that night, a claim that authorities have denied.
Solages has pleaded not guilty to the murder conspiracy charges.
Vincent is also expected to provide inside information on Christian Sanon, a Haitian physician and pastor who was initially proposed as the successor to Moïse before the plotters abandoned him in favor of a member of the Haitian Supreme Court. Sanon has also pleaded not guilty, but to conspiracy charges accusing him of smuggling ballistic vests to the Colombian commandos in Haiti and to carry out a “military expedition” against a foreign country.
The plea agreement was signed by Vincent, his defense attorney, Kenneth Swartz, and federal prosecutors Andrea Goldbarg, Monica Castro and Russo.
In addition to Vincent, three other defendants have admitted to their supporting roles in the Miami federal case.
Others connected to the assassination
In October, former Haiti Sen. Joseph Joël John, who had been detained in Jamaica before being brought to Miami last year, pleaded guilty to the same charges in the killing of Haiti’s leader. He faces up to life in prison at his sentencing later this month, though he’s cooperating with authorities in the hope of receiving less severe punishment.
John, 52, acknowledged to FBI agents that he had met with some co-conspirators just before they “embarked on the mission to kill President Moïse” at his suburban home, according to court records. John admitted that he helped obtain rental vehicles, made introductions to Haitian gang members and tried to get firearms for the co-conspirators’ operation targeting the president, according to his statement filed with his plea agreement.
John attended meetings in South Florida and Haiti with the main suspects and tried to acquire weapons and ammunition for them, according to the statement and other court records. He’s believed to have been a link between the various groups. On the night of the killing, he was in communication with several suspects.
John’s goal was to become the prime minister under Moïse’s successor following the leader’s removal from office, according to court records.
In addition, retired Colombian army officer Germán Alejandro Rivera Garcia, aka “Colonel Mike,” 45, admitted that he met with several co-conspirators from Haiti and South Florida before leading a group of former Colombian soldiers to the Haitian president’s home to kill him. In October, Rivera was sentenced to life in prison, but he is hoping to get his sentence reduced with cooperation.
Also, Haitian businessman Rodolphe Jaar, 51, admitted to providing weapons, lodging and money in the conspiracy to assassinate Haiti’s president. A dual Haitian and Chilean citizen, Jaar was sentenced in June to life in prison but is hoping to get his prison term decreased with cooperation. He had previously been convicted of drug trafficking in the United States.
Another suspect recently arrested in Haiti — if extradited — may become the 12th defendant in the Miami federal case. In October, Joseph Félix Badio, a former government functionary who had been fired from his anti-corruption job, was apprehended by Haitian police at a grocery store in Petionville.
Badio is among several high-profile suspects who remained in hiding more than two years after the killing. There has long been widespread speculation that he was either the key person behind the scenes or a potential mastermind.
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