Framed for a string of burglaries by a corrupt Florida police chief and deported back to his native Haiti after serving five years in prison, an innocent man recently filed a lawsuit against the chief and his officers for false imprisonment and civil rights violations. On the day the lawsuit was filed, former Biscayne Park Police Chief Raimundo Atesiano pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiring with his subordinate officers to violate the civil rights of three black males by making false arrests in order to boast a near-perfect clearance rate for burglaries.
While serving as police chief in 2013 and 2014, Atesiano ordered Officers Charlie Dayoub, Raul Fernandez, and Guillermo Ravelo to falsely arrest three black males, including Clarens Desrouleaux and a 16-year-old juvenile identified only as “T.D.,” in an attempt to claim a perfect record closing burglary cases. After presenting Desrouleaux with false arrest affidavits and threatening him with more time in prison, Dayoub and Ravelo obtained a false confession from Desrouleaux claiming he had burglarized three homes.
“To the extent that Desrouleaux confessed to the burglaries, the confession was obtained through coercion and unconstitutional tactics, including the threat of the potential imposition of a much longer prison term,” the suit reads.
No longer having faith in the U.S. judicial system, Desrouleaux decided to plead guilty and serve five years in prison instead of pleading not guilty and potentially facing 30 years in prison. After serving his prison sentence, Desrouleaux was taken into custody by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and deported back to Haiti.
Although state prosecutors vacated his conviction in August, Desrouleaux “is still in Haiti and is not able to return to the United States of America as a result of his bogus arrest and conviction perpetrated by the defendants in this case,” his lawsuit states.
On June 11, Atesiano, Dayoub, and Fernandez were charged with conspiracy to violate civil rights under color of law and deprivation of T.D.’s civil rights, under color of law. Last month, Dayoub and Fernandez both pleaded guilty to deprivation of T.D.’s civil rights, under color of law.
In April, former Biscayne Park cop Guillermo Ravelo was charged with assaulting two people while on duty and falsifying the police reports. In July, Ravelo pleaded guilty in Miami federal court to a conspiracy charge of violating the rights of two falsely accused black men and using excessive force during a 2013 traffic stop by punching a handcuffed man in the face.
On Friday, Atesiano pleaded guilty to conspiring with his subordinate officers to violate the civil rights of three black males by making false arrests. That same day, Desrouleaux’s attorney filed a lawsuit against the former police chief, officers, and city for false imprisonment and violating his civil rights.
“We will not allow the minority of officers who cast aside their oaths to tarnish the reputation of those who protect us all,” U.S. Attorney Benjamin Greenberg stated on Friday. “Instead, as evidenced today with former Chief Raimundo Atesiano’s guilty plea, we will continue to hold them accountable in federal court for criminal acts that threaten our constitutional guarantees.”
“The right to be free from false arrests is fundamental to our Constitution and system of justice,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Law enforcement officers who abuse their authority and deny any individual this right will be held accountable. As the Chief of Police, Defendant Atesiano was trusted by his community to lead their police officers by example; he has failed his community and the officers of Biscayne Park.”
“It is a deliberate injustice to intentionally charge and arrest an innocent man,” asserted Katherine Fernandez Rundle, State Attorney for Miami-Dade County in Florida. “Police Chief Raimundo Atesiano’s actions were intended to give his community a false sense of security and were a betrayal of his oath to protect the residents of Biscayne Park and all the people of Miami-Dade County.”
Atesiano’s sentencing is scheduled for November 27. Ravelo is scheduled to be sentenced on October 4, while Dayoub and Fernandez are scheduled to be sentenced on October 16.