Unsolved murder clouds kingpin’s sentence reduction

A letter to a United States federal judge in Miami by the former brother-in-law of imprisoned Haitian cocaine kingpin Jacques Ketant, claiming that Ketant had ordered the “assassination”of his mother, has stalled the U.S. government’s request to cut Ketant’s 27-year prison sentence by half.

Rene Joseph alleged that Ketant, 49, was behind the February 1997 killing by a masked gunman of his mother, Claudie Adams, 48, as she chatted on a cellular phone, leaving her dead in the parking lot of a busy West Kendall shopping center in Miami.

Joseph claimed that the masked assassin had jumped out of a black Toyota and shot her mother twice.

U.S. prosecutors said Ketant has helped them convict a dozen fellow traffickers, senior police officers and a politician from Haiti.

Miami-Dade police, the FBI and the US Attorney’s Office declined to discuss the murder of Adam, 48, who had owned a Little Haiti travel agency in Miami.

But a U.S. federal prosecutor has asked U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno, who put Ketant’s planned sentence reduction on hold in February after receiving Joseph’s letter, to meet privately to talk about the case.

“This information concerns an open and ongoing investigation and would potentially address what evidence, if any, the investigation has uncovered with respect to the defendant [Ketant] and other individuals linked to the homicide,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Lynn Kirkpatrick wrote in a court filing.

The judge granted her request for the private meeting in his chambers, leaving out Ketant’s lawyers, who challenged Moreno’s decision.

But, in court filings, defense attorneys Ruben Oliva and Paul Petruzzi have called the allegation against Ketant “false and absurd”, saying their client’s due-process rights would be violated if they don’t have “full access” to any information shared with Judge Moreno.

Moreno is yet responded to their filing.

“In short, and without any evidence or factual basis whatsoever, Mr. Joseph accuses the defendant of ‘assassinating’ [Ketant’s] ex-mother-in-law,” the defense attorneys wrote, noting the Drug Enforcement Administration investigated the murder following Ketant’s arrest in 2003.

The defense attorneys also said they recognized the judge’s “obvious need” to review the status of the murder case, “to move beyond the equally unsupported speculation and rumor that continues to dog” their client.

They have, however, agreed to the prosecution’s request to let Miami police detectives and the FBI question Ketant about Adam’s murder, according court filings.

Ketant was married to Adam’s daughter, Sybil, at the time of the mother’s killing 15 years ago.

U.S. federal prosecutors are seeking Ketant’s sentence reduction because of his cooperation in the conviction of several fellow traffickers, senior police officers and a politician from Haiti. Ketant’s release date from an Arkansas federal prison is in 2026.

Judge Moreno has delayed his decision on reducing Ketant’s sentence, insisting that he wants more details about Claudie Adam’s murder.

In addition, the judge said he wants current information about the U.S. government’s attempt to recover US$15 million in drug profits and other assets identified when Ketant was convicted in 2003 of smuggling 30 tons of cocaine into South Florida and New York.

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