The four main suspects in the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise have been extradited to the United States for prosecution as the Haitian case stalls amid death threats that have terrified local judges, US officials said Tuesday.
The suspects currently in US government custody are James Solages, 37, and Joseph Vincent, 57, two Haitian-Americans who were among the first to be arrested after Moises was shot 12 times in his private home near the capital Port-au-Prince. on July 7, 2021.
Christian Emanuel Sanon, an elderly pastor, doctor and failed businessman who authorities have identified as a key player, is also facing charges. His associates suggest he was duped by the real and still unidentified masterminds of the assassination, which has plunged Haiti into deep political chaos and unleashed gang violence not seen in decades.
The fourth suspect was identified as Colombian national Germain Rivera Garcia, 44, who is one of nearly two dozen former Colombian soldiers charged in the case.
Rivera, along with Solages and Vincent, face charges including conspiracy to commit murder or kidnapping outside the United States and providing material support and resources resulting in death, the US Department of Justice said.
Sanon is charged with conspiracy to smuggle goods from the United States and providing illegal export information. Court documents say he sent 20 ballistic vests to Haiti, but the items sent were described as “medical X-ray vests and school supplies.”
It was not immediately known if the four suspects had attorneys who could comment on the development. The men are scheduled to appear in federal court in Miami on Wednesday.
A total of seven suspects in this case are currently in US custody. Dozens more are still languishing in Haiti’s main prison, which is severely overcrowded and often lacks food and water.
The case has reached a virtual stalemate in Haiti, with local officials last year appointing a fifth judge to investigate the killing after four others were dismissed or resigned for personal reasons.
A judge told the Associated Press that his family begged him not to take the case because they feared for his life. Another judge resigned after one of his aides died under unclear circumstances.
Just two months before Moises was killed, Vincent texted Solages with a video of the cat “attentively responding” to the sound of gunshots, court documents said, and Solages laughed, prompting Vincent to reply, “So will Jovenel, but (faster) if you are really ready!
The document says Solages replied that “(this) cat is never coming back” and “trust me brother, we are definitely working on a final decision.”
Then in June, about 20 former Colombian soldiers were recruited to allegedly help arrest the president and protect Sanon, who envisioned himself as Haiti’s new leader. Rivera was in charge of that group, the documents said.
The plan was to detain Moises and fly him to an unidentified location, but that plan failed because the suspects could not find the plane or enough weapons, authorities said.
The day before the assassination, Solages falsely told the other suspects that it was a CIA operation and that the mission was to kill the president, documents show. Shortly before the assassination, authorities said, Solages yelled that it might be a DEA operation to ensure compliance with the president’s security detail.
About a year after the murder, US authorities say they interviewed Solages, Vincent and Rivera while they were in custody in Haiti and agreed to the talks.
The other suspects already in US custody include Rodolphe Jarre, a former US government informant and Haitian businessman who was extradited from the Dominican Republic, where he was detained in January 2022.
That same month, U.S. authorities arrested Mario Antonio Palacios Palacios, a former Colombian soldier who was deported by Jamaica after fleeing Haiti. On his way to Colombia, he was detained in Panama by US officials.
Also in January 2022, authorities arrested former Haitian senator John Joseph, who had also fled to Jamaica.
Alfredo Izaguirre, the Miami-based lawyer for Palacios, said the trial of the other four suspects will be postponed after their appearance on Tuesday because they are all to be tried at the same time. He said Palacios was ready for the trial to begin in early March, but now it could be delayed for four months.
Haitian police say other high-profile suspects are still at large, including a former Supreme Court judge who authorities say favored the capture of Moise rather than Sanon as originally planned. Another fugitive is Joseph Badiou, the alleged mastermind of the plot, who previously worked for Haiti’s Justice Ministry and the government’s anti-corruption unit until he was fired, police said.
Emmanuel Jeanty, a lawyer for Martina Moise, the president’s widow, who was injured in the attack and was flown to the United States for treatment, did not return calls for comment.
In December, Martina Moise tweeted that her husband, who has also been accused of corruption, which he denied, had fought back, leading to his death. “Despite the lockdown, 17 months later people are demanding #Justice,” she wrote.
Associated Press writer Gisela Salomon in Miami contributed to this report.