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28568: (news) Chamberlain: Haitian Strongman (fwd)
From: Greg Chamberlain <GregChamberlain@compuserve.com>
RIVERHEAD, N.Y., July 7 (AP) -- Despite protests by prosecutors and a
human rights group, a judge set bail at $50,000 Friday for an elusive
former strongman from Haiti arrested in a Long Island mortgage fraud probe.
The bail for Emmanuel "Toto" Constant was set by state Supreme Court
Justice Michael Mullen at an arraignment on charges of grand larceny,
forgery and falsifying business records.
Prosecutors asked that Constant be held without bail, citing his 2000
murder conviction in Haiti and a pending lawsuit alleging his forces
gang-raped women. A lawyer with the San Francisco-based human rights group
Center for Justice and Accountability, which represents three women in the
gang-rape lawsuit, also said Constant was dangerous and should remain
But Constant's attorney said the charges against his client are
nonviolent, and Constant has no criminal record since coming to the United
States. "They tried to take his alleged past history and use it to
prejudice the judge," Edward Palermo said.
Constant, 49, was among six people indicted for mortgage fraud linked to
a four-bedroom home in East Setauket. The defendants stole $750,000 from a
pair of financial institutions by using phony buyers for the home,
authorities said. Constant received $45,000, authorities said, and he faces
8 1/3 to 25 years in prison if convicted.
Constant emerged as the feared leader of a right-wing paramilitary
group, the Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti, after President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide's presidency was toppled in 1991. Human rights
groups say that between 1991 and 1994, the group terrorized and slaughtered
slum-dwellers loyal to Aristide.
In 1994, Constant slipped into the United States. He has been living in
exile in New York, reportedly sometimes staying at the home of an aunt
while working as a mortgage broker.
Despite a 1995 deportation order, he has been allowed to remain because
Haiti's judicial system hasn't stabilized enough to ensure a fair trial.
A Haitian court convicted him absentia in 2000 and sentenced him to life
Lawyers for three women who claim they were gang-raped have asked a U.S.
District Court judge to enter a default judgment against Constant. He was
served a complaint in January 2005 but ignored it, they said. A hearing is
scheduled next month.