Police: Former Florida Lawmaker Arrested In Haiti On Weapons Charge
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – A Florida lawmaker who was disciplined after using a gay slur against a political rival and who lost re-election earlier this year is in custody in Haiti on a weapons charge, police there said Thursday. Circumstances of his arrest were a mystery.
A police official in the coastal community of Miragoâne, who declined to be identified, said former Rep. Al Jacquet, 40, D-Palm Beach, was in custody on a charge of illegal possession of a weapon.
The police official said an investigation was underway, and the case has moved from the attention of local police to that of the national government. He could not say whether or when Jacquet might be released from custody.
A photo circulating on social media showed Jacquet's expired driver’s license, state legislative ID card, a Glock 9mm pistol, magazines and spare ammunition. Information on the driver’s license matches documentation from a recent traffic citation.
Jacquet, a lawyer, did not respond to phone calls from a reporter or worried colleagues who have been trying to reach him urgently. The U.S. embassy in Haiti and the State Department in Washington said it could not discuss Jacquet's status under privacy laws. Family members were not home Thursday and did not immediately return messages left at their residences.
Jacquet served in Florida's House since 2016 and represented a mostly low-income district in Palm Beach County until he lost the Democratic primary in August.
Frantz St. Cloud, an acquaintance of Jacquet who was identified as a paid consultant for Jacquet’s political committee, said he hasn’t had any luck reaching Jacquet. Jaqcuet’s lawyer, Douglas Leifert, who is representing Jacquet in a traffic case, said he hasn’t heard from Jacquet since his latest court appearance.
Richard Ryles, a lawyer and former West Palm Beach city commissioner, said the accusations against Jacquet were out of character. He said he had not heard from Jacquet in Haiti.
“He has an ethical obligation to conduct himself at the highest level,” Ryles said. “I would expect that there are other circumstances fomenting this.”
Prior to his run for office, Jacquet served as a legislative assistant to Mack Bernard, a Haitian-born lawyer who served in the Florida House until 2012.
Jacquet made headlines for attempting to alter the language of Florida’s constitutional Amendment 4 to restore voting rights to ex-felons without requiring the full payment of court fees, though he was unsuccessful.
Jacquet lost a primary election earlier this year to Omari Hardy after invoking an anti-gay slur to describe Hardy on the Al Jacquet Show, his online radio program. As a result, Jacquet was stripped of his committee assignments toward the end of this year’s legislative session.
Hardy, a former Lake Worth Beach commissioner, said he hoped reports of Jacquet’s arrest weren’t true.
"I hope that he is able to get himself together because he’s a talented smart guy,” Hardy said. “As a Black man, I don’t think we can spare any talented Black men.”
Since his defeat in the August primary, Jacquet has failed to account for more than $38,000 in funds raised during his 2020 campaign. In August, the Florida Elections Commission fined Jacquet $650 after he failed to file a campaign treasurer’s report originally due Feb. 10. Jacquet has since failed to file a campaign termination report due on Nov. 16.
“I hope that he is okay and is well,” Hardy said. “I’m praying for him."
This story was produced by Fresh Take Florida, a news service of the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. The reporter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org