A Haitian-Chilean businessman and former U.S. government informant was sentenced to life in prison on Friday for his role in the brazen nighttime assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse in July 2021.
Rodolphe Jaar, a convicted drug trafficker, is the first defendant to be convicted in the slaying that plunged Haiti deeper into turmoil. He pleaded guilty in March to several charges, including conspiracy to commit murder or kidnapping outside the United States and providing material support resulting in death.
Jaar is among 11 defendants, including several Haitian Americans, who have been charged by U.S. prosecutors in the Southern District of Florida in connection with Moïse’s assassination. In Haiti, dozens have been detained, but after nearly two years, there have been few, if any, other charges.
A group of roughly 20 ex-military Colombian nationals stormed Moïse’s home in the hills overlooking Port-au-Prince on July 7, 2021, and shot him 12 times. He was 53. His wife, Martine Moïse, was wounded but survived the attack.
The assassination pushed Haiti, already roiled by political disorder, into further chaos from which it has yet to emerge. Violent gangs stepped into the power vacuum, conducting mass kidnappings, displacing more than 130,000 people and transforming daily life into what one regional leader last year called a “low-intensity civil war.”
Though U.S. authorities have made several high-profile arrests in the plot in recent months and have secured one conviction, much about the assassination remains unclear, including who, ultimately, was its mastermind.
U.S. Judge Jose E. Martinez sentenced Jaar to life on each of three counts during a 10-minute hearing Friday in a Miami courtroom. Government prosecutors requested a life sentence, according to a plea agreement.
U.S. prosecutors allege two U.S. residents – Antonio Intriago, 59, a Venezuelan, and Arcangel Pretel Ortiz, 50, a Colombian – devised a plan through a Florida-based company to oust Moïse and replace him with Christian Sanon, an aspiring Haitian politician, who promised them “lucrative” infrastructure contracts in return. The men, prosecutors allege, hired about 20 Colombian mercenaries to carry out the plan. When the group realized that Sanon lacked the constitutional qualifications to become president, they decided that a Haitian former Supreme Court judge would replace Moïse instead.
U.S. prosecutors have said that the initial plan was to “extract” Moïse from Haiti in June 2021 by plane, but the plan fell apart because the group could not secure an aircraft. Organizers then began plotting to assassinate the then-president.
Jaar, 50, was accused of providing the money used to buy the weapons used in the assassination and to bribe unnamed Haitian officials who were responsible for Moïse’s security, allowing the mercenaries easy access to the compound. Jaar is also alleged to have provided his co-conspirators with food and lodging.
Jaar told U.S. investigators in December 2021 that he “provided firearms and ammunition to the Colombians to support the assassination operation” and that he had directed a co-conspirator to hide in an embassy in Haiti after the murder, authorities said in a criminal complaint.
U.S. authorities arrested and charged Jaar in January 2022 in the Dominican Republic, where he fled after the assassination. They said he agreed to be flown to Miami and had been cooperating with them.
U.S. authorities filed charges against eight suspects this year, including Sanon, who they allege smuggled 20 ballistic vests from South Florida to Haiti “for use by his private military forces.”