Haitian deportee fighting to return to U.S. after Florida police framed him and 2 others
Six years ago, Florida’s Biscayne Police Department had become so adept at solving burglaries that the local word was all it took for them to solve cases was the stroke of a pen. Claiming a 100% clearance on all burglary cases, the Police Chief at the time, Raimundo Atesaino, even went on record saying at a community meeting that he had never seen such success during his tenure.
It was all an elaborate lie. At the same time that Atesaino was bragging on his department’s success rate, there was a Haitian immigrant named Clarens Desrouleaux sitting in prison, serving time for grand theft for a burglary he never committed. Desrouleaux had been living in America for over 20 years and was one of at least three Black males who had been framed by Atesaino’s department, the youngest of which was a mere child of sixteen.
According to reporting from the Washington Post, police officers either invented evidence, falsified police reports, or coerced confessions strictly so they could maintain the image of success. Their actions had horrifying ripple effects. According to the federal lawsuit, Desrouleaux was eventually deported back to Haiti after serving 5 years behind bars here in America.
Cam Cornish, an attorney for Erasmus Bannah, one of the three framed by Atesaino’s department, told the Washington Post, “The police chief of Biscayne Park essentially wanted to have good stats with 100 percent solve rates on thefts and burglaries, so he ordered his police officers to go after people — from my understanding, black people — with criminal records… Basically, this was a case of people in positions of power picking on the marginalized society.”
The Washington Post acquired an internal affairs investigation from the Village of Biscayne Park Police Department, which indicates that the command staff, including Atesaino, ordered officers to seek out and arrest Black people specifically. Even though the internal investigation shows that this was a campaign specifically carried out against Black people, race was not a factor in the civil rights lawsuit brought against the police department.
According to the internal affairs investigation report: “Officer De La Torre stated the Captain has told him multiple times to pin cases pending on anyone black walking through the streets at night… He stated the Chief told him the same thing and the Corporal also relayed the message. He stated, for instance, if they have burglaries that are open cases that are not solved yet, if you see anybody black walking through our streets and they have somewhat of a record, arrest them so we can pin them for all the burglaries. He stated they were basically doing this to have a 100% clearance rate for the city.”
Eventually, charges were dropped against Banmah and the unnamed 16-year-old suspect who was framed by the police department. But things did not go so well for Desrouleaux who had been arrested on the suspicion that he had forged a check which was connected to a recent home invasion and burglary. Atesaino instructed the officers who arrested Desrouleaux to charge him with two open cases, even though there was absolutely no evidence connecting the man to the crimes.
This worked out in the favor of the police department because instead of fighting the false charges, Desrouleaux took a plea deal and served 5 years in a federal penitentiary. He was facing up to 30 years in charges otherwise.
Desrouleaux’s attorney Sagi Shaked told the Washington Post of the state of mind his client was likely in when he agreed to take the plea deal: “Going to trial has its uncertainties, and when they’re scaring you and telling you they have this mountain of evidence against you, that’s a scary proposition to take a chance with 30 years.”
Following his release from prison, Desrouleaux was promptly deported to Haiti where he remains even though a judge has vacated his convictions. Shaked told the Post that his client is still barred from returning to the United States, but he is working with immigration lawyers to change this. Desrouleaux remains separated from his wife and children who live in Miami.
“That’s where he built everything for the last 20 years,” Shaked explained. “He established himself in the U.S. He said his life is horrible now, because he has nothing there.”