Federal prosecutors charged a Haitian politician with visa fraud this week after a jury in a civil trial found that Jean Morose Viliena oversaw a campaign of terror against his opponents while he was the mayor of a Haitian village.
Authorities said Mr. Viliena, 50, lied on his immigration documents in 2008 when he said he had never been a part of political killings. He was awarded a green card to enter the U.S. as a permanent lawful immigrant later that year.
In fact, according to the jury in the civil trial, Mr. Viliena had been part of killing the brother of one political opponent in 2007 in Les Irois, the village where he was mayor. The jury also found Mr. Viliena liable for the torture and attempted murder of two people involved in starting an opposition radio station in the village.
The federal jury in Massachusetts delivered those verdicts on Tuesday, the same day federal prosecutors got their indictment from a grand jury.
“The United States will not be a safe haven for human rights violators and war criminals,” said Andre Watson, assistant director for national security at Homeland Security Investigations.
Mr. Viliena had argued in the civil case that he couldn’t be connected to the killings, saying that the plaintiffs — victims or family of victims — were trying to tar him with actions just because they happened while he was mayor.
The jury didn’t buy it.
In its verdict, the jury said Mr. Viliena should pay $4.5 million in compensatory damages and $11 million in punitive damages.
The plaintiffs had accused Mr. Viliena of using the U.S. immigration system to escape authorities in Haiti.
They said he fled to Massachusetts in January 2009 after Haitian prosecutors opened a criminal probe of his misconduct. He still served as mayor of Les Irois until February 2010 and continued to order retaliation against opponents back in Haiti, the plaintiffs said.
Even as the trial was going on, they accused Mr. Viliena of overseeing threats of retaliation against people in Haiti who are related to witnesses who testified against him in the U.S. court.
In Massachusetts, the plaintiffs said Mr. Viliena was employed as a school bus driver.
• Stephen Dinan can be reached at email@example.com.
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