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6 Plead Not Guilty to Smuggling Haitians

November 15, 2002|From Associated Press

MIAMI — Six men pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges that they smuggled more than 200 Haitians to the United States in a trip that ended with television cameras catching the immigrants jumping ship, wading ashore and begging motorists for rides.

Prosecutors say the Haitian men intended to make a profit by charging their countrymen for the trip aboard the 50-foot freighter. If convicted, they face mandatory sentences of five years in federal prison.

Defense attorneys said passengers and federal agents have denied that the men charged tried to make a profit. The indictment did not say how much passengers paid and prosecutors had no comment leaving court.

Like others on the trip, boat mechanic Jean Eddy Louis "was coming to the United States seeking the American dream," said his attorney David Markus. "Instead he finds himself behind American bars."

Edner Dorvil is named as the owner of the boat and organizer of the trip. Defense attorney Bernie Pastor said Dorvil's wife and two children were among those who made the eight-day crossing that ended Oct. 29.

The indictment includes one smuggling conspiracy charge and 228 counts of alien smuggling that name all of the people caught, including five from the Dominican Republic.

The boat was chased by the Coast Guard to shallow waters near downtown Miami.

With the exception of the six charged, the other immigrants apprehended after they made it ashore remain in detention, where they await asylum hearings. A few people are believed to have avoided arrest.

All illegal Haitian immigrants are held pending deportation to deter what U.S. officials fear would be a mass exodus from Haiti.

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