Èzili Dantò Statement in New Haven Court
Transcript from Perlitz Sentencing hearing on 12/21/2010, Pages 105 to 115
MS. PATEL: Your Honor,…I do know that based on conversations both with chambers as well as the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network, there is an individual from that organization that wishes to address the Court. I don’t know if your Honor’s intention was to hear from Ms. Dantò now or if you would like to deal with the arguments on the upward departure motion.
THE COURT: I will hear from her…
MS. DANTÒ: Good afternoon, your Honor.
THE COURT: Just a moment, please. Yes your name, please.
MS. DANTÒ: My name is Èzili Dantò. I’m the president and founder of the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network.
First, your Honor, I want to thank you for giving us this opportunity to address the Court. And I would like to also say, your Honor, that as Haitians, the Haitian Lawyers Leadership is an organization that was founded in 1994, 16 years ago, and our main purpose is to institutionalize the rule of law in Haiti and to protect and defend the cultural, the civil, the economic and the human rights of Haitians living at home and abroad.
THE COURT: Would you pull that microphone a little closer to you, please.
MS. DANTÒ: Can you hear me?
THE COURT: That’s fine.
MS. DANTÒ: We take this opportunity, your Honor, to thank you for this unique opportunity not often provided to Haitians to speak for themselves. We also take this opportunity to express our deep appreciation and gratitude of the U.S. government, the prosecuting team, Homeland Security staff, and all authorities, the U.S. investigators who worked so hard to get this case here.
I have been working on Haiti issues as a human rights lawyer for 24 years. I am a member of both the New York and the Connecticut bars. This is the first time that I’ve had the opportunity to represent Haitians at a level where we can actually speak for ourselves to the injustices that our people are suffering in Haiti. This, first of its kind case, is setting a precedent that is so important to us Haitians. It is warning all who prey on the helpless outside of the United States, masking it with benevolence, that impunity no longer rules.
We give special thanks to lead counsel, Assistant United States Attorney Krishna Patel, for all her hard work, along with Stephen B. Reynolds, Richard Schechter, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigator Rod Khattabi. And, your Honor, I’d like to also thank the Haitians who took this case at the — at great personal risk. I think there is a representative here from the Haitian National Police Department Brigade of Protection For Minors, for all of their good work in getting the first, I think in 2009, warrant for the arrest of Mr. Perlitz. I know how difficult that was. So we give maximum respect also to the teachers and employees at Project Pierre Toussaint who first stepped forward to expose Mr. Perlitz at great risk to themselves, their families, and of course the loss of income.
All the way here — I want to say to especially Margarette, that though I don’t know who you are, but all the way here we heard of the work that you have been doing with the children. Thank you.
But above all, we are here, your Honor, to support the victims of Mr. Perlitz and to ask you to consider the severest, most maximum sentence and fines being moved against Mr. Perlitz.
Before I go on, I just want to say that in the courtroom we have some of the prominent attorneys who are with us at the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network, attorneys who have traveled great distances to come here and who have practiced law both in New York and in Connecticut. We have Bob Celestin, who is licensed to practice law since 1985, for 25 years. He’s a New York lawyer. He’s been a founding member of the Haitian Lawyers Leadership and one of our board members. We have with us also someone you may know, your Honor, Henri Alexandre, who is also a member of the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network, former assistant attorney general, and who is now in private practice. We have also in the courtroom Joseph Makhandal Champagne, another lawyer, the newest member of the Haitian Lawyer Leadership board, practicing law in New Jersey, recently elected as mayor of South Town River, New Jersey.
Our organization, your Honor, is made up of not just lawyers. We started out in 1994 as lawyers, but found that justice in Haiti was for sale and that we had to open up our organization of network to counter a narrative about Haiti that is used to abuse Haitians in many ways. And so, your Honor, we also have with us here this network of people of all races, of all creeds, of all nationalities. Most — a lot of our work is done on Haitian radio, on Haitian Internet, and we have partners and collaborators in Haiti, and I think it was around 2005 that we first heard about this particular case in Cap-Haitien.
We’ve come here, your Honor, to ask that you give the maximum sentence to Mr. Perlitz. There is, your Honor, an unconscious message and stereotype that allows for this sort of abuse to go undetected for so long, and I want to take the moments that I have to talk about that.
But first I want to say with respect to these children, what we have here is a man who used good deeds to entice, to persuade, and to serially rape children as young as 11 years old, 12 years old. These are babies who were not being fully formed. But more than that, your Honor, if a minor, if an underaged victim of sexual abuse in the United States, the richest country in the world, who have parents, who have family, who have a stable community, who has the rule of law, well-trained public police professionals, if that minor, underage victim finds it difficult, shameful and intimidating to come forward, imagine how a child on the streets of Haiti who must depend on shelter, who must depend on food from Mr. Perlitz would feel having to come forward.
This is, to me, the vilest form of abuse. Mr. Perlitz, in exchange for giving the children shelter, giving the children basics, food, stole their innocence, stole their childhood, shredded their soul and made them live in the shadow of victimhood and powerlessness.
I believe, your Honor, that it is critically important to the healing of these
children that Mr. Perlitz is given the maximum sentence for several reasons. First, because he’s only facing one charge, and we know that he has admitted to at least eight minor victims, and that one charge has — the range is from 8 to 19.7, but we know beyond that that there were many, many more victims of Mr. Perlitz.
And I want to point out how egregious, how vile and arrogant Mr. Perlitz was in his abuse; that even when there was a warrant for his arrest in Haiti, he still managed to see the children in the Dominican Republic. Moreover, your Honor, there are some very good charity workers in Haiti, some very good people whose trust was betrayed here, because unbeknownst to donors — now, I was born in Haiti, but I was raised in Stamford, Connecticut, and I find that, you know, I have talked over the years about this case with some donors, and basically Mr. Perlitz used funds given in good conscience by good and kind and generous U.S. citizens to do the most unconscionable, to barter for sex and prey on helpless children. To give them an environment, supposedly, he was supposed to give them an environment healthier than the street environment, but, in essence, that did not happen.
It was very heartbreaking for us here as Haitians to sit in this audience and listen to these Haitians speak about the pain, the wound. And I see a maximum sentence, your Honor, as a recognition, a validation of the dignity and value of the lives of these Haitians. Haitians lives should not be so devalued that Mr. Perlitz can say I believe I should have the lowest possible sentence because I was an alcoholic, because I was drunk, because I was abused myself, because I had lost my father. There is absolutely no reason for a man to take an 11-year-old, make him dependent on him and then destroy his soul.
There are many, many ways, your Honor, to kill someone, and I’ve been doing work, Haiti work for a long, long time, and have come across many predators as well as good people, but definitely many predators who have gone to Haiti because it’s safe for them. It’s a place where the business people turn a blind eye when a Blan, which is the word we use to mean foreigner, to mean a white person, to mean someone who is non-Haitian, brings a child to a restaurant and then goes to a room with that child. Some people turn a blind eye, some of the restaurant people. A lot of people just turn a blind eye because they are making money.
These children may not be dead physically by the action of Mr. Perlitz, but these children suffered tragedies that have affected Haiti. They’re a part of the uncounted victims of various tragedies that we are going through right now. These children have been both spiritually and mentally killed by this sexual predator. In essence, you know, they are the walking dead. I believe that a maximum sentence will help to heal them, would help to validate them, will help elevate their dignity. And so those are the various reasons that we think a maximum sentence should be given.
But most importantly, of course, as a deterrence, because as I speak to you right now, I can tell your Honor that in the last five years I’ve dealt with many other cases of similar abuse by charity workers and priests, and not many have gotten to this level. So the deterrence, the message that this can send is beyond measure. The message that giving a maximum sentence can send is to say to those who are in Haiti right now capitalizing on the lack of safety for children, the lack of stability, the lack of resources, is that you may not get away with this. There are judges like Judge Arterton who will look at this situation and who these children can turn to, people like Krishna Patel, who will take this to the maximum.
So, your ruling, your Honor, will be an international deterrence because it is not — there are many defrocked, there are many other sort of religious folks that when they’re caught in the United States they end up in Haiti or in Africa. One of the statistics you may not know about is that most Haitians know that sexual abuse by foreign tourists, charity workers, pastors and priests in Haiti is a pandemic. Our sources report that out of every ten Haitian families, more than half in Haiti have been molested by either a priest, a missionary or a charity worker. This generation of Haitians, we here, want to put a stop to it, and we’d like to begin here right now with the sentencing of Mr. Perlitz.
To end, your Honor, there is a Haitian whose name is being used here in vain. There is a Haitian who is I guess the most venerated Black Catholic in the Catholic church. He’s a person that was enslaved, African, who came to New York in 1787. His name is Pierre Toussaint. Pierre Toussaint was a philanthropist.
He’s the founder of Catholic charitable works in the United States.
It is his name that Mr. Perlitz, and his reputation, that Mr. Perlitz used to bless his project Pierre Toussaint. And as Haitians we find that to be vile, offensive, and we wanted to stand before you and take back Pierre Toussaint from all this mess because he, in 1787, came as an enslaved African to New York. By the example of his life, he showed what generosity is, what piety is, what the gospel of Christ is, what helping others selflessly is.
One of Mr. Perlitz’s supporters said that he had such a big heart, Mr. Perlitz, that he had such kindness, that he was, in fact, the face of Christ.
We respectfully disagree, and we respectfully would like everyone to remember that Pierre Toussaint, whose name is used to grace this mess, was someone who was — actually he founded the first orphanage in New York. His remains are at the Cathedral of Saint Patrick at the moment. He’s been venerated and he’s one step towards sainthood. So, if there was an image of (what divine charity objectively is) in this world, for Haitians and the world in this mess, it would be that of Pierre Toussaint.
Thank you, your Honor.
THE COURT: Thank you very much…”
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