Clarens Desrouleaux spent five years in prison for burglary before he was deported to Haiti last year. The problem is that he never stole anything from anyone. Desrouleaux was, in fact, a victim of a heinous scheme by former Biscayne Park Police Chief Raimundo Atesiano in which he told his cops to frame black residents for burglaries in order to make his department seem competent.
Last week, Atesiano pleaded guilty to the scheme. And now Desrouleaux is suing the department for false imprisonment and civil rights violations after Biscayne Park cops ruined his life.
Desrouleaux, who is now 41, “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,” the suit reads.
In August, state prosecutors vacated Desrouleaux’s conviction after Atesiano and three lower-level Biscayne Park cops were indicted on federal charges. But Desrouleaux’s new lawsuit, filed Friday in Miami federal court, lays out new details about how he was framed.
Per the suit, Desrouleaux says two of the indicted cops, Charlie Dayoub and Guillermo Ravelo, intentionally targeted him in 2013 because of his past history of arrests. The suit says Dayoub and Ravelo also lied on arrest affidavits and stated they had evidence showing Desrouleaux had broken into three homes. He hadn’t.
Desrouleaux’s conviction hinged on the fact that he’d allegedly confessed to the crimes in private, with no witnesses present or any cameras recording footage of the confession. In the lawsuit, Desrouleaux explained why he’d admitted to crimes he never committed: He says the cops threatened him with even more jail time. He says that while he was cornered by the two cops, they said if he didn’t simply own up to the burglaries, they’d ensure he rotted in jail for years. So he says he confessed to committing three burglaries.
“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.
Desrouleaux then pleaded guilty in court — but he says he did so only to avoid spending most of the rest of his life behind bars. He says he was given the choice to either plead guilty and take a guaranteed five years in prison or plead not guilty and risk 30 years of imprisonment. He chose the shorter sentence despite knowing he was innocent — an action that justice-reform advocates say is all too common in the American justice system.
After his five-year prison stint ended, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement picked him up and sent him back to Haiti.
Desrouleaux is not the only victim to seek justice against the 11-person Biscayne Park Police Department in civil court. Atesiano’s crew also framed a teenage victim, known only as “T.D.” in court records, for four 2013 burglaries. The now-adult victim sued the village earlier this year for civil rights violations. Atesiano and three other cops have pleaded guilty in federal court. Per the Miami Herald, Atesiano’s own cops told internal investigators the chief said that “if you see anybody black walking through our streets and they have somewhat of a record, arrest them so we can pin them for all the burglaries.”
Miami-Dade County public defenders say they’re worried they might find even more victims of the scheme in the coming weeks.
“Said misconduct was motivated by racial animus and constituted purposeful discrimination; it also affected black men in a grossly disproportionate manner vis-a-vis similarly-situated caucasian men,” Desrouleaux’s suit reads. “The conspiracy to violate people’s civil rights based upon race under color of law is exactly what Defendants did to Desrouleaux.”