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Convicted drug trafficker seeking sentence reduction

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Posted on January 12, 2012 3:00 AM EST

One of the most infamous Haitian cocaine trafficking kingpins will go before a federal judge and seek a significant sentence reduction for cooperating with federal authorities. The defendant will appear with his Miami criminal defense lawyers seeking at least a 50% cut from his current sentence. Beaudoin Ketant operated one of the largest cocaine trafficking rings in Haiti until he was expelled by Jean Bertand Aristide in 2004. The expulsion from Haiti came at the request of the United States government. Federal law enforcement officers traveled to Haiti and then flew the defendant out of the country. The U.S. Attorney's Office indicted the defendant on charges of importation of cocaine and conspiracy to do the same. The indictment alleges that the defendant was responsible for the importation of in excess of 30,000 kilograms through locations such as Florida and New York.

Defendants charged in federal court will often have the ability to reduce their prison sentences by cooperating with federal prosecutors and other law enforcement officials. Prior to cooperating with federal authorities, a skilled defense attorney should thoroughly review a case, the evidence supporting the case and all discovery provided by the prosecution. After reviewing the case with the client, the decision whether or not to cooperate must be made. In the majority of cases, there is not much time to make this decision for a variety of reasons. First, federal judges move cases along at a rapid pace. Secondly, as time goes by, co-defendants will come forward to cooperate, dissipating the client's usefulness. Law enforcement wants new and fresh information that will lead to other prosecutions.

The rules for sentence reductions in federal court can be found in the United States Sentencing Commission Guidelines Manual. Section 5K1.1 provides for a sentence departure for substantial assistance to law enforcement authorities. The government must make a motion prior to a guilty plea being entered by the defendant. The motion must set forth that the defendant has provided substantial assistance in the investigation or the prosecution of another person who has committed an offense. The ultimate decision to reduce a sentence and by how much is left up the judge. The judge will consider the significance, usefulness truthfulness and reliability of the information, the nature and extent of the assistance, and the timeliness of the substantial assistance. A defendant can also seek a reduction after a sentence has been imposed. A defendant can seek a reduction under Rule 35 for substantial assistance after a sentence has been handed down. The defendant in this case is seeking a reduction under the latter category.

According to prosecutors and defense lawyers, the defendant is going to receive a significant sentence reduction. Despite his serious involvement in drug trafficking, the defendant could see his term cut in half as his substantial assistance has led to 50 convictions of other Haitian nationals involved with cocaine trafficking and money laundering. His information has led to the successful conviction of both cocaine traffickers and individuals charged with taking bribes. The most interesting claim made by the defendant named Aristide a co-conspirator in the drug trafficking operation. The defendant purportedly paid Aristide money to allow the cocaine to travel smoothly in and out of the country. Haiti was a major hub for moving cocaine from Columbia to the United States.

Haitian Drug Kingpin Prosecuted in Miami Could Get Big Cut in Prison Sentence, Miami Herald.com, December 21, 2012.
Categories: Sentencing
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