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#4893: Lack of Creole interpreter delays trial (fwd)
Published Wednesday, August 16, 2000, in the Miami Herald
Lack of Creole interpreter delays trial
The charges against three Haitians stem from drug-related home invasion
robberies in North Miami. BY JUDY ODIERNA
Three alleged members of a Haitian drug gang will have to wait until
October to face federal conspiracy charges stemming from brutal home
invasion robberies in North Miami because no Creole interpreter was
available Tuesday. A fourth defendant changed his plea to guilty before
the start of court proceedings. There are only two federally certified
Creole interpreters now working for the Southern District of Florida.
Both were tied up Tuesday with other trials, forcing the postponement.
Federal prosecutor Karen Rochlin argued that the three remaining
defendants understand English, but U.S. District Senior Judge James
Lawrence King said he didn't want to take any chances. ``I don't want
someone to come back and say we needed an interpreter,'' the
judge said during pretrial proceedings. ``It's too big a gamble.''
Rene Palomino Jr., the attorney for defendant Marc Kenlo Monestine, 24,
said his client preferred to wait until the court could get an
interpreter. ``These gentleman are facing a tremendous amount of time,''
he said. ``We want to make sure they understand all phases of the
trial.'' Monestine, Alexis Toutoute, 32, and Jean Charles Thomas, 26,
are now scheduled for an Oct. 30 trial. A fourth defendant, Belal
Richard Andre, 30, decided to plead guilty just before
the start of court proceedings. He will be sentenced Oct. 27 for
conspiracy to distribute five kilograms of cocaine. The four are alleged
members of the Caribbean Thunder I gang -- one of four groups
authorities say is responsible for a string of home invasion robberies
where victims were bound, raped and tortured. Four other Caribbean
Thunder I members pleaded guilty shortly after their arrest in
December. They will be sentenced next month. Alleged members of another
gang, Caribbean Thunder II, are scheduled for trial Sept. 11. North
Miami police, along with the city of Miami and the FBI, created a task
force 1 1/2 years ago to target violent Haitian-on-Haitian home invasion
robberies involving drug dealers stealing narcotics and money from each
other. There have been 26 arrests on various charges mostly involving
drugs. The Caribbean Thunder I members were arrested Dec. 1 following a
sting in Miami Beach where authorities baited the gang members with the
promise of 65 kilograms of cocaine stashed at an empty house.