By Kim Ives, Haiti Liberté, April 24, 2017
Former Haitian paramilitary leader and Senator-elect Guy Philippe sealed a plea bargain today with the U.S. Attorney’s office to get a lighter sentence in return for pleading guilty to just one count of money laundering.
In return, the U.S. government dropped its other two charges of “Conspiracy to Import Cocaine into the United States,” which carries a sentence of 30 years to life in prison, and “Engaging in Transactions Derived from Unlawful Activity,” which carries a 10 year sentence.
The charge to which Philippe, 49, pleaded guilty – “Conspiracy to Launder Monetary Instruments” – carries a 20 year maximum sentence, but as part of the deal, prosecutors recommended Philippe be sentenced to only nine years. Judge Cecilia Altonaga will set Philippe’s sentence in Miami on Jul. 5, 2017 at 8:30 a.m.. As in most plea deals, she will likely follow the U.S. Attorney’s recommendation.
Parole cannot be granted in federal cases, but the government can give Philippe a 15% reduction in his prison term for “good conduct,” meaning he could be out in seven and a half years or 2024.
The hearing to change Philippe’s Jan. 13 plea of “not guilty” took place in Miami on Mon., Apr. 24 at 2:30 p.m. and took all of 21 minutes. In addition to the defendant, in attendance were lawyers Mark A. Irish, Lynn M. Kirkpatrick, and Andy Camacho for the U.S. Attorney’s office, and Alan Shelley Ross and Zeljka Bozanic representing Philippe.
“We were contacted by the U.S. Attorney’s office quite recently, proposing a plea bargain,” said Ross. “We were prepared to go to trial, but if you go to trial and you…