Guy Philippe, a former Haitian Coup leader, pled guilty in a US criminal court for drug and money laundering after taking a plead deal. The Haiti laundering of narcotics and money with a guilty plea, prevents a much lengthy life sentence, which he faces if he went to trial and was convicted.
“You understand I am under no obligation to impose that sentence?” asked U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga, noting that the maximum potential sentence is 20 years.“Yes, your honor,” said Philippe.
Under the plea deal, the recommended prison sentence for Guy Philippe is nine years and the drug trafficking charge would be dropped. He also faces a $1.5 million fine at a sentencing hearing July 5.
Philippe, 49, led a 2004 Haitian uprising that ousted then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and was indicted along with several others on charges stemming from Haiti laundering drugs and money to the U.S. in 2005. He managed to elude capture for more than a decade, including at least 10 attempts to arrest him in Haiti that involved a military operation and a foot chase through the countryside.
Philippe was elected to the Haitian Senate in November, but was arrested while giving a live radio interview in the capital of Port-au-Prince in January and whisked immediately to the U.S., Altonaga rejected his claim of immunity as an elected Haitian official. The judge noted even if immunity applied, Philippe had not yet been officially sworn in.
There was no immediate comment about the guilty plea from the many members of Haiti’s parliament who questioned the legality of swiftly flying Philippe to Florida on the same day of his arrest in the capital’s Petionville district.
Philippe admitted Monday in court that, as a high-ranking Haitian police commander in the city of Cap-Haitien, he accepted between $1.5 million and $3.5 million from drug smugglers from 1999 to 2003. Prosecutors say Philippe and other police officers took the money in exchange for ensuring safe passage for cocaine shipments from Colombia and other countries that went through Haiti on their way to Miami and other U.S. destinations.