Judge imposes 22-year sentence on Antonio Guerrero
Oct. 13, 2009
Today, October 13, 2009, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida imposed a new sentence to Antonio Guerrero, unjustly imprisoned for more that 11 years in Florence, Colorado, one of the toughest detention facilities, dubbed by the Guinness World Records as the most secure prison in the world, where the inmates are in solitary confinement for most of the day, and that is labelled by some as the "Alcatraz of the Rockies" and its prison regimen as “a living tomb”.
As it is known, Antonio had been initially condemned by that same court to a life sentence plus 10 years. That sentence was considered excessive, contrary to the legal rules currently in force and was vacated by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, establishing that the defendant did not gather or transmit any information related to the national security of the United States.
The new sentence of 262 months (nearly 22-year) of prison is the result of international solidarity and the tenacious effort of his defense counsel, Leonard Weinglass, and although it is not as absurdly exorbitant as the one before, it is also unjust. It’s time to intensify the struggle for the immediate freedom of our five compatriots.
This episode is one of the so many proofs that confirm the absolute arbitrariness of the process followed against who are imprisoned in the United States only and exclusively for fighting anti-Cuban terrorism promoted by US authorities. The irrational disproportion of the originally imposed sentences was one of the issues reclaimed by the defense regarding to which it was possible to reach a partial, limited and contradictory achievement. In 2008 the Atlanta Court of Appeals ratified the unfair guilty verdicts of the Five, annulled the sentences of Antonio, Ramón and Fernando and remanded for resentencing.
As an expression of the strange way of doing justice in that country, the Court of Appeals recognized that in spite of the fact that Gerardo Hernández Nordelo deserves be resentenced, they decided not to do that and ratified the cruel sentence of two lives plus 15 years.
Gerardo, Ramón, Antonio, Fernando and René are innocent and should never have been deprived of freedom. Every day that they remain in prison will be a shameful confirmation of the US Administration complicity with terrorism.
Judge Reduces Sentence for One of Cuban Five
by Ian Urbina
A federal judge in Miami approved a lighter sentence Tuesday for one of five Cubans convicted in 2001 of spying on anti-Castro Cuban exiles.
The case of the men, commonly known as the Cuban Five, has strained relations between the United States and Cuba for more than a decade.
An appeals court last year threw out sentences for three of them, finding the punishment too harsh because the government had never proved that they had traded in “top secret” intelligence.
In the late 1990s, the men infiltrated Cuban-American exile organizations that opposed the Castro government, including some of the more activist groups like Brothers to the Rescue, which regularly made unauthorized flights over Cuba to drop leaflets.
In Cuba, the five are considered political prisoners, and the Cuban government has lobbied for their release, arguing that they were not spying on the United States so much as trying to ferret out right-wing anti-Castro terrorists determined to hurt Cuba.
On Tuesday, Judge Joan A. Lenard of Federal District Court replaced the life sentence for one of the men, Antonio Guerrero, with a sentence of 262 months, or almost 22 years, which means he will be out of prison in about seven years, counting time served since his 1998 arrest and time off for good behavior. Prosecutors and Mr. Guerrero’s lawyers had asked for the sentence to be reduced to 240 months.
“It was odd,” said Leonard Weinglass, Mr. Guerrero’s lawyer. “You have a man who was on a military base but who didn’t take a single classified document and no one testified that he injured U.S. national security, but the judge still rejects the prosecutors’ request to lighten the sentence.”
Mr. Guerrero, a United States citizen, was convicted of spying for Cuba while working at the Naval Air Station in Key West.
In May 2005, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights ruled that the men’s trial fell below international standards for due process and that the United States should either retry or release them.
All five men were arrested in 1998 and convicted of acting as unregistered foreign agents and conspiracy to commit crimes against the United States.
A sentencing hearing for two of the others has been postponed.
Robert A. Pastor, a professor of international relations at American University, said the case still raised concerns. “Holding a trial for five Cuban intelligence agents in Miami is about as fair as a trial for an Israeli intelligence agent in Tehran,” said Dr. Pastor, who was President Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser for Latin America. “You’d need a lot more than a good lawyer to be taken seriously.”
Cuban spy gets nearly 22-year reduced sentence
by Curt Anderson
MIAMI — A man convicted of spying for Cuba while working at a Navy base in Florida received a reduced prison sentence of 22 years Tuesday, far shorter than the original life term thrown out by an appeals court.
Antonio Guerrero, a member of the so-called Cuban Five, reached an agreement last week with federal prosecutors for a flat 20-year term. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year threw out the life sentence as unjustifiably harsh because no U.S. secrets were stolen.
But U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard would not go as low as the deal called for, citing the seriousness of the espionage conspiracy conviction even if Guerrero failed to obtain classified material.
"The evidence in this case does indicate that he very much wanted to," Lenard said.
The decision came in a courtroom packed with Guerrero's family and supporters — including his elderly mother from Havana, Cuba — as well as Cuban exiles, among them relatives of four pilots who were shot down by Cuban jets over the Florida Straits in 1996. The slain pilots were part of Brothers to the Rescue, an organization that dropped pro-democracy pamphlets on the island and assisted Cuban migrants attempting to reach U.S. shores.
Information provided by the Cuban Five and other spies played a role in the shootdown, according to court records.
Myrta Costa, the mother of slain pilot Carlos Alberto Costa, said Lenard reached the proper result for Guerrero.
"I feel sorry for his mother, but those were crimes that were very serious and very big, and they destroyed families," Costa said in Spanish.
The Cuban Five are lionized as heroes by Cuba's communist government and its allies, which regularly brand the case an example of U.S. persecution.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Caroline Heck Miller said the 20-year deal with Guerrero was intended in part to quell "misstatements and distortions that have circulated around the world" about the spy case.
Guerrero attorney Leonard Weinglass said he was surprised the judge opted for the term of 21 years and eight months, longer than the sentence defense attorneys and prosecutors had agreed on.
"When you approach the United States government in good faith and all seriousness, you would expect a federal judge would honor that," Weinglass said.
Other than answering routine questions, the 50-year-old Guerrero made no statement. Weinglass said his client will serve about seven more years, counting time already served since his 1998 arrest and time off for good behavior.
Guerrero was part of a spy group that sought in the 1990s to infiltrate U.S. military installations and law enforcement agencies and monitor Cuban exile groups, according to court documents.
Guerrero, a U.S. citizen trained in civil engineering in the Soviet Union, was tasked by Cuban intelligence in 1993 to get a public works job at the Boca Chica Naval Air Station in Key West.
Guerrero delivered to Cuba's intelligence service detailed reports about U.S. military assets — nearly 400 pieces of information from 1994 to 1997. Court documents show this included day-to-day operations of the base's aircraft, communications systems, security arrangements and personnel who might be recruited as spies. Of special interest were the U.S. surveillance aircraft that monitor Cuba.
The appeals court also vacated the sentences of two other members of the Cuban Five, but their new sentences will be imposed at a later date. Attorneys for Ramon Labonino and Fernando Gonzalez are attempting to obtain any U.S. national security damage assessments of the case, which might be used to bolster their cases for more lenient sentences. Labonino was serving a life sentence and Gonzalez 19 years.
Associated Press Writer Laura Wides-Munoz contributed to this story.
Cuban spy re-sentenced to 22 years prison in US
by Juan Castro Olivera
MIAMI — A judge on Tuesday resentenced one of five members of the biggest Cuban spy ring broken up in the United States to 22 years in jail, down from a previous life term that was deemed too harsh.
The high-profile case has been an obstacle to improving historically strained US relations with the only one-party communist regime in the Americas.
Federal Judge Joan Lenard gave a sentence of 262 months (21 years, 10 months) and five years probation to Antonio Guerrero, for gathering and relaying US military information to Cuba. The sentence was just over the 20 years prosecutors had sought.
Guerrero committed "very serious offenses against the US," the judge said.
"The government did not present evidence that the defendant obtained top secret information, but he worked to obtain such information," Lenard stressed.
Attorney Leonard Weinglass, who represented Guerrero, said the outcome was not what he expected.
"I'm surprised with this decision," said Weinglass. "We negotiated an agreement with the government in good faith. Hopefully, he will be at home in seven years."
Cast as heroes in Havana, the "Cuban Five" -- Guerrero, Gerardo Hernandez, Rene Gonzalez, Ramon Labanino and Fernando Gonzalez -- were arrested in 1998 and convicted three years later. Guerrero, 50, is an airport construction engineer by training born in the United States to Cuban parents.
Earlier, three of them were sentenced to life in prison and the other two were given sentences of between 15 and 19 years. Cuba regards them as political prisoners and has lobbied intensely for their release.
Lenard this week accepted requests from Labanino and Gonzalez' attorneys to delay their sentencing pending a probe into whether the US government had determined how much damage the spies' work had caused.
An appeals court earlier found the original sentences for the Cubans to be excessive and ruled that new ones should be handed down.
Court documents claim the Cubans were looking for US military information, and to monitor groups of Cuban exiles opposed to the Havana government.
Cuba has acknowledged the men were agents but claims they were working to stop terrorist attacks on Cuban soil.
"While (the new sentence) is not as absurdly exagerrated as the prior one, it is also unfair," official Cuban websites Antiterroristas and Cubadebate said on learning of Guerrero's new sentence. They said the reduced sentence was a "result of international solidarity and the strenuous effort of his defense attorney."
The court developments come amid a slight easing in tensions between the two countries, dating back to the Cold War. The neighbors do not have full diplomatic ties, and the United States has had an economic embargo on Havana for decades.
In April, US President Barack Obama authorized travel and money transfers to the island by US nationals of Cuban descent and a month later proposed restarting US-Cuba talks on migration issues suspended since 2003.
But while Cuban President Raul Castro has said he would be willing to swap jailed political dissidents for the five imprisoned men, the US government has rejected the idea.
The United States also has said it will not, for now, seek to end the full trade embargo, which dates to 1962. Instead it has urged Havana to show progress on human rights, an approach that has not previously borne fruit.
Cuban Five Member Has Sentence Reduced, Could Be Out of Jail in Seven Years
by Kyle Munzenrieder
Antonio Guerrero, a member of a group of men collectively known at the Cuban Five, has had his sentence reduced from life in prison to 21 years and 10 months. Taking into account time served and good behavior, Guerrero could be out of jail in seven years, his lawyer says.
Guerrero was convicted of spying for the Cuban government after trying to break into a U.S. military facility in the Florida Keys and spying on Miami's anti-Castro exile community. He's been in U.S. custody since 1998.
The harsher sentence was overturned today in a U.S. Appeals Court and is the latest episode in a long legal saga. Supporters said the Five's original trial wasn't valid because Miami's exile community would prevent a fair trial.
Three of the original 2001 sentences were overturned last year. Resentencing for the other two has been postponed.
Cuban spy's U.S. jail term reduced to about 22 years
by Tom Brown
MIAMI (Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Tuesday reduced the prison term for a Cuban spy from a life sentence to about 22 years in a high-profile espionage case that strained already hostile ties between Havana and Washington.
U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard resentenced Antonio Guerrero, 50, to 21 years and 10 months imprisonment for his part in a Cuban espionage ring U.S. prosecutors said had sought to penetrate U.S. military facilities and had spied on the Cuban exile community in Florida.
The new sentence, although reduced from the life term originally imposed by Lenard but thrown out by an appeals court last year, was nevertheless slightly higher than the 20 years suggested by U.S. prosecutors in a resentencing deal reached with Guerrero. He has been in custody since 1998.
"At today's hearing, Mr. Guerrero made no statement of contrition," Lenard said after noting he had been convicted of "very serious offenses".
Guerrero, who has Cuban and U.S. citizenships, and four other convicted Cuban spies also arrested in 1998 formed the so-called "Wasp Network" sent to the United States to infiltrate exile groups opposed to Cuba's communist government, then led by Fidel Castro.
Fidel Castro, now 83, handed over the Cuban presidency last year to his younger brother, Raul Castro, 78.
The case of the five has long been a bone of contention between the United States and communist-ruled Cuba, which demands their release, hails them as heroes and says they were trying to prevent "terrorist" attacks by exile extremists.
U.S. President Barack Obama has said he wants to try to improve U.S.-Cuban ties after a half century of hostility.
Dressed in a short-sleeved khaki prison uniform, his hair close-cropped and wearing glasses, Guerrero made no statement to the court, even when given the opportunity to do so.
Speaking before the resentencing, his attorney Leonard Weinglass called the reduced term a "reasonable solution."
"A 20-year sentence is not a walk in the park ... We're talking about cutting the heart out of a man's life," Weinglass said. He said later he was surprised that Lenard had opted to increase the 20 years suggested by government prosecutors.
Weinglass told reporters he expected his client could still be out of jail in around seven years, taking into account reductions for good behavior.
CUBA CAMPAIGNS FOR RELEASE
The five Cuban espionage agents were convicted in a Miami court in 2001 of 26 counts of spying and received sentences ranging from 15 years to life in prison.
A U.S. appeals court last year threw out the sentences against three of the five, including Guerrero, as excessively harsh, arguing they had not succeeded in actually sending back top secret information, despite their conspiracy to do so.
U.S. prosecutors said Guerrero infiltrated the Boca Chica Naval Air Station in Key West, but he failed to actually obtain any classified information.
The resentencing of the other two of the three has been postponed.
U.S. prosecutors had linked the activities of the Cuban spy ring to the 1996 shooting down by Cuban fighter jets of two planes belonging to an exile group, Brothers to the Rescue, which flew near Cuba. Four men in the planes were killed.
Cuba has staged national and international campaigns calling for the release of the five, arguing they did not receive a fair trial in Miami, center of the exile community that fled after Fidel Castro took power in a 1959 revolution.
In an article posted on Cuba's official Cubadebate web site, Cuban commentator Arleen Rodriguez described Guerrero as a "political prisoner" and said the release of him and his four convicted colleagues by Obama would be a "worthy decision" by the new Nobel Peace Prize winner.
Explaining the resentencing deal reached with Guerrero, government attorney Caroline Heck Miller said it would help the image of the U.S. judicial system. "It quiets the whirls of contentiousness that swirl about this case," she said.
In requesting the reduced sentence for Guerrero, his lawyer had quoted reports from prison officials citing his good behavior and his "outstanding job" teaching English to Spanish language inmates in a high-security prison in Colorado.
US judge cuts Cuban spy sentence
Oct. 13, 2009
A judge has reduced the jail sentence of a Cuban man convicted of spying in the US from life to nearly 22 years.
Antonio Guerrero is one of a group known as the Cuban Five who were jailed in the US in 2001 for spying for the then government of Fidel Castro.
The resentencing by a federal judge in Miami followed an appeals court ruling that his life term was too harsh.
The case has long been a cause of friction with Cuba, where the men are considered national heroes.
The five - Gerardo Hernandez, Ramon Labanino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando Gonzalez and Rene Gonzalez - were found guilty in 2001 of infiltrating US military bases and Cuban exile groups, and giving the information to Cuba.
Hernandez was also convicted of conspiracy to commit murder over the shooting-down in 1996 of two planes flown by a Cuban exile group, Brothers to the Rescue.
The men, who received terms ranging from 15 years to life, have made several appeals against their convictions and sentences.
Last year, an appeals court upheld their convictions but ordered three of the group - Guerrero among them - to be resentenced.
Guerrero's lawyers had reached a deal with prosecutors last week on a 20-year sentence.
But in court on Tuesday, District Judge Joan Lenard handed down a slightly longer term of 21 years and 10 months, saying Guerrero had committed "very serious offences" and had made no statement of contrition.
In June, the US Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal against the group's convictions.
The five argue that they did not get a fair hearing at the original trial in Miami because of anti-Castro sentiment in the city.
US prosecutors have insisted the men were found guilty on hard evidence, while Cuban exile groups say they were justly punished.
The Cuban government says the men were not in Miami to spy on the US but to prevent anti-Castro exile groups from launching what it calls terrorist attacks on Cuba.
They have been in US custody since 1998.
Oct. 15, 2009
One of the members of the so-called Cuban Five spy ring has been handed a reduced sentence of 22 years instead of his original life term.
50-year-old Antonio Guerrero was convicted of espionage in the US in 2001. His sentence was reduced, as no state secrets were stolen.
The five Cuban intelligence officers were arrested in Miami in 1998. In 2001 three of them were sentenced to life terms.
The Cuban government has lobbied for the release of the five, arguing that they were not spying on the United States so much as trying to ferret out right-wing anti-Castro terrorists determined to hurt Cuba.
Last year a court of appeals discharged sentences for three of them, finding the punishment too harsh because the government had never proved that they had traded in “top secret” intelligence.
The case strained relations between the US and Cuba for more than a decade.
Brian Becker, from the Answer Coalition, an advocacy organization, says the original sentences were outrageously long.
“There is a great deal of injustice in the campaign, and there is a growing chorus not only to reduce the sentence but to set these men free,” Becker said.
Attorney Leonard Weinglass Talks to the Press Following the Hearing
Impone jueza sentencia de 22 años a Antonio Guerrero
13 de octubre de 2009
La Corte del Distrito Sur de la Florida dictó hoy, 13 de octubre de 2009, una nueva sentencia contra Antonio Guerrero preso injustamente desde hace más de 11 años en Florence, Colorado, en una de las instituciones penitenciarias más duras, considerada por el Guinness World Records como la prisión más segura del mundo, donde los condenados pasan la mayor parte del día en confinamiento solitario, y es calificada por algunos como “el Alcatraz de las Rocosas” y su régimen carcelario como “la tumba en vida”.
Como se sabe Antonio había sido condenado inicialmente por ese mismo tribunal a cadena perpetua más 10 años de prisión. Esa sentencia fue considerada excesiva, contraria a las normas legales vigentes y declarada nula por la Corte de Apelaciones del Onceno Circuito que estableció que el acusado no había tenido ni transmitido información alguna relacionada con la seguridad nacional de Estados Unidos.
La nueva sentencia de casi 22 años de prisión es resultado de la solidaridad internacional y del tenaz esfuerzo de su abogado defensor, Leonard Weinglass, y aunque no es tan absurdamente exagerada como la anterior es también injusta. Es la hora de intensificar la lucha por la libertad inmediata e incondicional de nuestros Cinco compatriotas.
Este episodio es una prueba de las tantas que confirman la absoluta arbitrariedad del proceso seguido contra quienes están encarcelados en Estados Unidos única y exclusivamente por luchar contra el terrorismo anticubano promovido por las autoridades norteamericanas. La irracional desmesura de las penas impuestas era uno de los aspectos reclamados por la defensa respecto al cual fue posible alcanzar un logro parcial, limitado y contradictorio. En el 2008 la Corte de Apelaciones en Atlanta que ratificó los injustos veredictos de culpabilidad de los Cinco anuló las sentencias de Antonio, Ramón y Fernando y dispuso fuesen nuevamente sentenciados.
Como expresión de la extraña manera de hacer justicia en ese país la Corte de Apelaciones reconoció que igualmente correspondía actuar respecto a Gerardo Hernández Nordelo, pero en vez de ordenarlo decidió ratificar la bárbara condena que pesa sobre él de dos cadenas perpetuas más 15 años de encarcelamiento.
Gerardo, Ramón, Antonio, Fernando y René son inocentes y nunca debieron ser privados de libertad. Cada día que ellos permanezcan en prisión será vergonzosa confirmación de la complicidad de la Administración norteamericana con el terrorismo.