Supreme Court appeal considered for 2 of 'Cuban 5'
by Solange Reyner
June 5, 2008
Reprinted from Miami Herald
Attorneys for two convicted Cuban spies, one who is serving a life sentence, said Thursday they are considering appealing their cases to the U.S. Supreme Court.
A federal court this week upheld the convictions of Gerardo Hernandez and Rene Gonzalez, who were initially convicted of espionage charges in 2001 with three other men.
The cases of the other three men were sent back to the district court in Miami, where they will face less strict sentencing guidelines. It was a small victory for the members known as the 'Cuban Five,' and the National Committee to Free the Cuban Five. The five have been lionized as heroes in Cuba, while exile groups say they were justly punished.
Life sentences for Luis Medina and Antonio Guerrero were vacated, as well as a 19-year sentence for Fernando Gonzalez.
But lawyers for the two whose convictions were upheld denounced the decision.
"I was very disappointed with the decision that I read yesterday," Paul McKenna, Hernandez' attorney said Thursday. "But I am also ready to keep fighting."
Hernandez is serving a double life sentence on counts of conspiracy to murder four Miami-based pilots who were slain by Cuban jets in 1996 when they were dispersing pro-democracy pamphlets on the island. Gonzalez is serving 15 years for one count of acting as an agent of a foreign government and one count of conspiracy to do so.
The three-judge panel in Atlanta ruled 2-1 to uphold both convictions. Attorneys argue the government didn't present enough evidence to show Hernandez' conspiracy to commit murder.
Hernandez was also convicted of conspiracy to gather and transmit national defense information.
The five admitted to being agents, but denied involvement in spying on the United States.
McKenna said he will review this case with Gonzalez' attorney and make the decision on whether to appeal to all the federal court judges.
On Wednesday, a three judge panel made the decision. It was the third time the case had gone before the court.
In 2005, a three-judge panel overturned the convictions, saying there should have been a change of venue, but a full court reversed that decision.
If the attorneys don't get the results from a full court review, then they will consider appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"Everyone expected that all the life sentences would be reduced. It's quite a shock," said Gloria La Riva, one of the coordinators of the committee to free the men."
She is expecting a large turnout of protesters Friday in 16 cities, including New York, Chicago, London, San Francisco and Toronto.