Prosecutors dismiss case against two Haitians accused of intending to bribe officials after FBI provides previously unseen messages.
by Michael Cleverley
United States federal prosecutors dropped a case after the FBI submitted new evidence on June 27. Previously unseen text messages between undercover agents about phone calls with the two men in 2015 backed the men’s innocence.
The dismissal of the two defendants, Dr. Joseph Baptiste, who founded the National Organization for the Advancement of Haitians, and Roger Boncy, an entrepreneur, came days before the men’s second trial was to be held on July 5. The prosecution alleged that Baptiste and Boncy conspired to bribe Haitian officials with money connected to an $84 million project in 2015.
“It is clear now that Richard is innocent – no ifs, ands, or buts about it,” Boncy’s attorney, Jed Dwyer, said in an emailed statement, according to the Associated Press. “Richard has always maintained he did nothing wrong and the evidence the FBI withheld proves that.”
The project, planned for Môle-Saint-Nicolas, a town about 175 miles north of Port-au-Prince, would construct cement factories, a petrol depot and a power plant, among other structures, according to The Baltimore Sun. The plan was to be completed through the nonprofit organization Baptiste founded in 1991.
The FBI recorded calls between Boncy and an undercover agent, but the actual recordings were destroyed as a result of a recordkeeping mistake at the federal agency. Dwyer said those recordings would have proven the innocence of the men. Prosecutors alleged that millions of dollars would be used to bribe Haitian officials, including a prime minister’s aide. The text messages the FBI recently provided revealed Boncy told the agents the money wasn’t used for bribes.
In the first trial against the men in June 2019, both were convicted. Baptiste and Boncy then requested a new trial, citing the ineffectiveness of Baptiste’s defense counsel. In March 2020, a judge decided that they should get a second trial.