BOSTON (AP) — A federal judge ordered a new trial Wednesday for a retired U.S. Army colonel convicted of bribing Haitian government officials, saying his lawyer failed to adequately defend him.
Joseph Baptiste, of Fulton, Maryland, was convicted by a jury in June of soliciting bribes from undercover federal agents who posed as potential investors in a proposed $84 million port project in the Mole-Saint-Nicolas area of Haiti. Roger Richard Boncy, a businessman who lived in Spain, was also found guilty in the bribery scheme.
Prosecutors said Baptiste, a dentist who served 23 years in the Army, and Boncy told agents they would funnel the payments to Haitian officials through a nonprofit Baptiste controlled that purported to help impoverished residents of Haiti.
U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs cited “errors, omissions, and general lack of diligence” by Baptiste’s attorney in her decision. The lawyer didn’t review certain documents and recordings prosecutors gave him before trial, didn’t subpoena any witnesses and only cross-examined two of the government’s six witnesses, Burroughs wrote.
“While he was not required to perform all of the numerous steps available to him to prepare for trial, the fact that he performed so few and in such a cursory manner is undeniably deficient,” the judge wrote.
An email seeking comment was sent to the attorney, Donald LaRoche. A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Boston declined to comment.
Burroughs said Boncy is also entitled to a new trial and that the two men should be re-tried together.
Daniel Marx, who began defending Baptiste after the trial, said his client should “never have been prosecuted in the first place” and is grateful the judge concluded the man didn’t get a fair trial.
“He never paid a single dollar in bribes to anyone in Haiti. Dr. Baptiste only sought to encourage development in a poor country that he cares deeply about,” Marx said in an email.