Around the same time he published the kidnapping story, Joseph also authored an unattributed article alleging Prime Minister Lamothe had colluded with the Haitian general consulate to embezzle more than $20 million from the sale of a government-owned company called Haitel. "Lamothe, the big shot in the efforts to sell Haitel, divided up the sum to be collected as if the company belonged to him," Joseph wrote. "Since his name begins with the letter L, he gave himself the lion's share."

Although the accuracy of this story isn't clear — Haitel CEO Franck Cine told New Times it is true; Haitian General Consul Charles Forbin told New Times it isn't — Lamothe cited it as the basis of a libel suit he filed soon after against Joseph.

Which the editor, again, ignored. Because he never responded to the legal complaint or showed up in court, in February, Judge Ungaro inked a default judgment that found him guilty of defaming the prime minister, saying Joseph had "conjured to destroy" Lamothe. "His publication is replete with statements that are outrageous, scandalous and reminiscent of a tabloid publication," Ungaro wrote.

Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe
Africa Renewal/Flickr CC
Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe

But it was her ban on Joseph's right to publish the prime minister's name that sparked most dismay among local law scholars. "It was constitutionally overbroad and violated the First Amendment," said Caroline Mala Corbin, a Constitution academic at the University of Miami. "You can't bar people from speaking. That would restrict speech that may not be defamatory."

Even the prime minister's lawyers weren't convinced it would stand. "The judgment was obviously reviewed by a judge and decided by a judge," said attorney Miguel Armenteros. "But there's a chance of anything. It could be overturned." He added: "Look, this thing may be going to trial."

Attorney Sandy Bohrer, now defending the Brooklyn journalist, moved in early March to vacate Ungaro's default judgment. He questioned the constitutionality of Ungaro's decision. Joseph contends that he wasn't properly served and that he'd thought the whole thing was "a joke." (Though Joseph did publish a column late last year saying Lamothe's lawyers had sent him a letter threatening legal action.) Ungaro did not respond to requests for comment.

Either way, Joseph says he won't stop publishing stories about the prime minister. "Can you tell me not to put his name in the article?" Joseph said. "No judge can tell me to do that. He is the prime minister, and I cannot omit the prime minister's name."

Last week, Joseph ran another thinly sourced, front-page feature beneath a banner headline. "The Martelly-Lamothe regime," it says in boldface, "one political catastrophe."

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