SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A Haitian woman has signed a tentative agreement to plead guilty to weapons charges in exchange for a reduced sentence more than four years after authorities arrested her and four other adults from an extended family at a squalid New Mexico compound and recovered the remains of a 3-year-old boy.
Jany Leveille would accept a potential prison sentence of 12-15 years and possible fines under the proposed agreement with prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Albuquerque that dismisses kidnapping and terrorism-related charges.
Approval of the agreement is still pending in U.S. District Court. Prosecutors could withdraw from the agreement based on responses to proposed plea agreements with four additional defendants who say they are innocent of all charges, the U.S. Attorney’s Office confirmed Tuesday. A deadline passed last week without additional plea agreements to avoid trial.
Leveille was arrested along with her partner Siraj Ibn Wahhaj and extended family members in a law enforcement raid in August 2018 on a ramshackle encampment in the remote desert surrounded by berms of used tires and an adjacent firing range.
Authorities were searching for a sickly 3-year-old who had been reported missing by his mother in Georgia. Sheriff’s deputies and state agents initially found 11 hungry children and a small arsenal of ammunition and guns. After days of searching, they recovered the decomposed remains of the 3-year-old in an underground tunnel.
Authorities have said the deceased child, Abdul-Ghani Wahhaj, suffered from untreated disabilities as father Siraj Ibn Wahhaj and Leveille performed daily prayer rituals over him — even as he cried and foamed at the mouth. Authorities also said Leveille believed medication suppressed the group’s Muslim beliefs.
Forensic specialists determined the child died several months prior to the recovery of his body.
Leveille was accused of flouting prohibitions on firearms possession and transportation based on her status as a Haitian national without legal standing in the U.S. after she overstayed a visa without seeking renewal. Convictions also could result in her removal from the U.S.
An initial grand jury indictment alleges Leveille and her partner instructed people at the compound to be prepared to engage in jihad and die as martyrs, and that one more relative was invited to bring money and firearms.
All five defendants were charged with conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States and providing material support to each other as potential terrorists by crossing state lines with firearms and training at the New Mexico compound.
Defense attorneys have said their clients would not be facing terrorism-related charges if they were not Muslim.
All five defendants have been found competent to stand trial after mental health evaluations.
One defendant, Lucas Morton, is acting as his own legal counsel after declining his right to a public attorney.