A Haitian man tried and acquitted on terrorism charge is denied admittance into the United States to attend the funeral of his teenage son struck and killed by a vehicle on I-95.
BY JAY WEAVER AND JACQUELINE CHARLES
PORT-AU-PRINCE – Lyglenson “Levi’’ Lemorin, sitting inside a Cyber Café Saturday, waited patiently for technology to connect him to the heartbreaking scene unfolding some 700 hundred miles away inside a Miami Liberty City church.
“You sitting next to my mother?’’ he asked, fighting back tears as he spoke to his 13-year-old daughter, Lauren, over a cell phone. “Stay strong, alright Baby? Baby, don’t cry.’’
Lauren and the rest of the Lemorin clan were grieving, crying not just for 15-year-old Lukenson “Lil Luke’’ Lemorin, killed on April 1 by a passing vehicle, but also for Lyglenson Lemorin.
A Haiti native who lived in Miami most of his life, the elder Lemorin, 36, has been on a painful odyssey since his arrest in June 2006 on terrorism charges, his acquittal, then his eventual deportation back to Haiti – country he left 24 years ago when he moved with his family to Miami.
Now, in the Port-au-Prince café, his grief is even more searing because he cannot physically be there with family members to mourn the death of his only son.
“There is no way my son would have been on the streets at 11:30 p.m.,’’ he said of his son, who, according to the Florida Highway Patrol, was struck by a vehicle as he and two cousins pushed their disabled car off I-95 into the median.
Lemorin was a member of the Miami-Dade group that became known as the Liberty City 7, who federal investigators charged in a highly publicized terrorism case accusing them of conspiring with al Qaeda to blow up Chicago’s Sears Tower and federal buildings in Miami. The indictment was built on a sting operation, with a government informant playing the role of an al Qaeda financier directed by the FBI.
The seven defendants, investigators say, took an oath to the terrorist group.
A Miami federal jury found that Lemorin had distanced himself from the group, which worked together in a stucco business and hung out in Liberty City.
On Jan. 20, Lemorin was among 27 Haitians sent back to that country, after U.S. immigration authorities resumed deportations. He was shipped out in the dark of night and arrived in an earthquake-ravaged country that was fighting off a deadly cholera epidemic. Having heard about the tents cities, he said, “I prayed to God I didn’t have to live in one.’’
On Friday, another 19 deportees arrived in Port-au-Prince amid protests from immigration activists.
“I am so sorry this happened to his son and to him,” Lemorin’s immigration lawyer Charles Kuck of Atlanta said. “His case is a classic example of government-assisted human tragedy.”
Although Lemorin was acquitted, immigration authorities still deemed him a “national security” threat under the U.S. Patriot Act passed after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Now, he lives with the guilt over his son’s death, a son who went from a well-mannered kid to one in and out of juvenile detention center, and out late at night – a sign of defiance, Lemorin said, because he wasn’t there.
“I believe he acted up because I wasn’t around,’’ he said. “When he got arrested three times, I thought, ‘Does he actually think he’s going to end up the same place with me?’”
Since U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement denied his request to enter the United States to attend his son’s funeral, Lemorin was forced to view the Saturday service at Mt. Calvary Missionary Baptist Church via Skype.
It took 55 minutes and multiple tries, but Lemorin was to finally connect to see images of the service where more than 200 mourners paid their respects to “Lil Luke,” whose body lay in a silver casket draped with white flowers. “Don’t show me inside the coffin,’’ he said as he heard his mother wailing in the background.
The virtual hookup with Lemorin in Port-au-Prince and mourners in Miami was organized by Michelle Karshan, Executive Director of Alternative Chance, a Haiti-based re-entry program for criminal deportees in Haiti.
In Miami, Debbie Carter, a California woman who has come to the aid of Lemorin and his co-defendants, carried a laptop around the church enabling Lemorin to connect with his wife, see the flowers and make out his son’s casket.
Lemorin’s family has been struggling to raise the estimated $10,000 to help defray the cost of his son’s funeral and burial. So far, they have raised about one-third of the money and are seeking donations from the public.
Meanwhile, Lemorin has been struggling to find meaning in his son’s death and the uncertain future he has been dealt in the country of his birth.
As for being able to attend the funeral – even through the Internet – Lemorin said he’s grateful.
“I got to hear my family,’’ he said.
Miami Herald Staff Writer Kathleen McGrory contributed to this story.