|FOUR HAITIANS SENTENCED TO LONG TERMS IN HOSTAGE-TAKING OF A NINE-YEAR-OLD AMERICAN GIRL IN HAITI IN 2005|
|WASHINGTON-Four hostage-takers have been sentenced to long prison terms for taking hostage a nine-year-old American girl in Haiti in 2005, U.S. Attorney Jeffrey A. Taylor and Kenneth L. Wainstein, Assistant Attorney General, National Security Division, Department of Justice, announced today.|
(Media-Newswire.com) - WASHINGTON—Four hostage-takers have been sentenced to long prison terms for taking hostage a nine-year-old American girl in Haiti in 2005, U.S. Attorney Jeffrey A. Taylor and Kenneth L. Wainstein, Assistant Attorney General, National Security Division, Department of Justice, announced today.
Lesley Merise, 29, Yves Jean Louis, 29, and Ernso Louis, 20, all of Port au Prince, Haiti, were sentenced yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia before the Honorable John D. Bates. A fourth defendant, Phito Cajuste, 26, also of Port au Prince, Haiti, was sentenced today. Judge Bates called the hostage taking of the little girl a “horrible crime” causing “severe and long-term trauma.”
Judge Bates sentenced Merise, one of the ring-leaders, to 238 months ( 19 years 10 months ). Yves Jean Louis, another planner of the crime, was sentenced to 180 months ( 15 years ). Ernso Louis was sentenced to 168 months ( 14 years ), and this afternoon, Cajuste was sentenced to 166 months ( 13 years and 10 months ). Each of the four had entered guilty pleas. Yves Jean Louis and Ernso Louis each pled guilty on December 16, 2005, to one count of hostage taking. Cujuste pled guilty on May 4, 2006. All three agreed to cooperate with the government in prosecuting other perpetrators. Lesley Merise was a fugitive for almost two years. Merise entered his guilty plea on Aug. 31, 2007, the last of the conspirators to plead guilty. The government had moved for downward departures from the applicable Sentencing Guidelines ranges for Yves Jean Louis, Ernso Louis, and Cajuste, which the Court granted.
The nine-year-old victim, who is a U.S. citizen, had been living with her family in the area of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The ordeal for the little girl began in the early morning hours of Sept. 26, 2005, when Lesley Merise, Yves Jean Louis, Ernso Louis and Phito Cajuste abducted the girl from her bed, after having invaded the family’s home. The hostage-takers wore masks and wielded machetes and a real-looking imitation gun. The girl was taken to a remote mountain location and held there for more than one week, during which time she became ill. The girl was told repeatedly that if she told anyone or tried to escape, she would be killed. During that time, the hostage-takers made demands for ransom, starting at $200,000 in U.S. dollars.
A shepherd passing through the area where the girl was being held became aware of her presence and got her to write down her father’s name and phone number, using a piece of charcoal from a fire pit and a scrap of paper. Through great travails, the shepherd traveled many miles over torturous terrain to alert the authorities. On Oct. 4, 2005, the authorities mounted a rescue and saved the little girl. The authorities apprehended Ernso Louis at the scene and located Yves Jean Louis a short while later. Phito Cajuste was arrested in late February 2006 in Haiti. Merise was arrested in February 2007 in Haiti.
In announcing the sentences, U.S. Attorney Taylor and Assistant Attorney General Wainstein praised the hard work of the FBI’s Miami Extraterritorial Squad, in particular lead case agents Oscar Montoto and Kenith Jett, and agents Carlos Monero, Ed Cruz and William Clauss, the Miami Evidence Response Team, and the FBI Miami Special Weapons and Tactics Squad, all based in Miami, then FBI Legal Attache Andrew Diaz and then ALAT Joseph Jeziorski based in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, the Haitian National Police and the United Nations Civil Police, the Haitian Ministry of Justice, the ICE Office in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and the staff of the U.S. Embassy in Port au Prince, Haiti. Furthermore, they acknowledged the efforts of victim witness advocate Veronica Vaughan of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and Trial Attorney Thomas P. Swanton of the Counterterrorism Section of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeanne M. Hauch, who prosecuted the case.
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