Earlier this month, Federal Judge Joan A. Lenardo replaced the life sentence for Antonio Guerrero, one of the Cuban Five. Mr. Guerrero, a United States citizen, was convicted of spying for Cuba while working at the Naval Air Station in Key West. His sentence was reduced to almost 22 years, which means he could be out of prison in nearly seven years. Mr Guerrero’s attorneys had asked for the sentence to be reduced to 240 months, but Judge Lenardo set it at 262 months.
Mr. Guerrero’s lawyer, Len Weinglass, told the New York Times it was an odd decision. He said, “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.” Transcript of Hearing
- Antonio Guerrero, who I represent, was originally sentenced to life in prison.
- The appellate courts reduced the life sentence for the conspiracy to commit espionage against 3 of the Cuban Five
- The decision only remanded life sentences for ultimately 2 of the Cuban Five including Antonio Guerrero
- We returned to Miami for the re-sentencing on October 13. Prior to the re-sentencing, we negotiated with the government on the issue of re-sentencing alone, making it clear there was no admission of guilt on the underlying charge, which we are still contesting on a later collateral attack.
- We agreed that it should come down from a life sentence to a period of 20 years.
- In Miami, the judge took the very unusual step of setting the agreement aside, and set the term to 21 years and 10 months.
- You can’t give a life sentence (in this case) on what they intended to get, you can only give a life sentence on top secret information they did get. So, the original life sentence was wrong.
- When we got into the re-sentencing hearing, she got back to her original position as if the appellate court hadn’t ruled.
- I got very upset, the courtroom was packed. Packed with the same old crowd. The crowd in Miami that backs these paramilitary forces; they put the widows up front.
- I got upset at what I sought to be a climate that was being generated in that hearing and so I reminded the judge very forcibly that she was sentencing an individual not a country.
- I had given the court government documents from the Bureau of Prisons, all of them saying that Antonio Guerrero who was serving a faulty life sentence, and sent to a maximum security prison, which he shouldn’t have been sent, because the sentence was wrong.
- But the warden, his counselor and the supervisor of the unit, all extolled his behavior and most significantly pointed out that he had helped save a number of inmates all of whom were doing life sentences, from an incorrigible future, by training them in English and Math and overseeing them getting their GED.
- At that time, she was about to pronounce sentence, then she stopped, walked off the bench.
- When the judge came back, the first thing she did is recite a Supreme Court decision, all federal judges must sentence an individual according to his character.
- Antonio was 39 when he was arrested and he will be nearly 60 when he is released. That’s the heart of a lifetime.
- There was no acknowledgment of context here. That this was provoked by a pattern of violence by the US directed at Cuba. Where more than 3000 people have died in the past 40 years from violence coming from Southern Florida.
- The Cuban Five performed their task, nobody was harmed, no property damaged and they end up with life sentences for that operation.
- It came to light that the federal government was paying members of the press in Miami as part of their anti-Castro campaign to write articles about this case that were highly prejudicial. People who were reporters but were on the federal payroll.
- Can the government be responsible for creating a prejudicial atmosphere?
- He was at the most hard-nosed prison and after seven years the warden of that prison wrote the Regional Bureau of Prisons, asking that Antonio be released from that prison. He doesn’t belong there; he is a lovely, sensitive man.
Guest – Attorney Len Weinglass, who represented the Cuban Five; as William Kunstler’s younger partner, Len Weinglass was considered the workhorse of the defense team. He’s worked on a number of political cases including the Pentagon Papers trial and the Angela Davis case. He’s a Yale Law School graduate and former U.S. Air Force Captain.
Recently, the House of Representatives introduced their own USA Patriot Act reform bill, responding to the Patriot Act renewal bill approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Electronic Frontier Foundation says it’s a significant improvement over the earlier Senate bill that gave more authority to government spying power. The renewal bill was introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. and others including Civil Liberties Subcommittee Chairman Jerrold Nadler; and Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security Subcommittee Chairman Bobby Scott. These bills are proposals that could pave the way to dismantle the broad surveillance and overreaching executive power currently intact.
- Patriot passed after 9/11/2001 – a lot of the provisions were set to expire in 2005, most of those were renewed, but there were 3 provisions left to expire in the end of 2009.
- Provisions that expanded the government’s power to get orders from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court or any tangible thing, mostly business records. They’re mostly called section 215 orders, under the Patriot Act section 215.
- Roving wiretaps, more accurately roving “John Doe” wiretaps. One that doesn’t name target, or address of target. (These sound like the warrants our founders rebelled against.)
- Lone Wolf authority, whereby the government can get wiretapping authorities from the FISA court for people who are unrelated to any foreign power but are suspect to engage in or preparing to engage in crimes related to terrorism.
- The Lone Wolf authority begins to un-moor from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court – it looks to be unconstitutional under the fourth amendment. Most in Obama Administration want this to expire.
- Those are the 3 set to expire. Though worrisome, more worrisome is the National Security Letter Authority, whereby the FBI can write a letter to the court, without suspicion of terrorism, and get bank, telephone and internet records.
- The Justice Act – Senator Feingold/Durman – reform Patriot Act authorities–including FISA surveillance act passed last summer, which allows foreign surveillance of Americans.
- Also, repealing telecom immunity – Reforming the Patriot Act without addressing FISA is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
- Unfortunately, Senator Leahey, instead of sponsoring Feingold’s Justice Act reform bill, came out with his own bill that didn’t address the FISA amendment acts at all. That was the bill the Judiciary Committee considered 6 weeks ago.
- The Republicans offered to remove reforms to the already watered down bill, and the Republicans say they got their reforms from the Obama Administration. The Obama Administration is not only falling down on its promise to reform the Patriot Act, it is working through Republicans to make these bills even worse.
- So that’s when the USA Patriot Act reform bill, responding to the Patriot Act renewal bill approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee was proposed.
- We have 2 lawsuits, the first was brought against AT&T in early 2006 based on news reports and whistleblower evidence based on an AT&T technician info, that the NSA had backdoor access to key domestic communication switches.
- Whereby the NSA was sucking up millions upon millions of communications and then sorting out the stuff they were interesting in.
- If the telecom companies aren’t willing to say “NO” when the government secretly comes to them and asks them to break the law, then all of our privacy is in big trouble.
- We sued AT&T and then Congress passed this Telecom Immunity last summer, and our case along with others were dismissed. If the repeal of the Telecom Immunity passes, our cases will be revived.
- Obama can end the Telcom Immunity right now, and have Attorney General Holder withdraw the certification on which the immunity is based.
Guest – Kevin Bankston, senior staff attorney specializing in free speech and privacy law, was the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Equal Justice Works/Bruce J. Ennis Fellow for 2003-05. His fellowship project focused on the impact of post-9/11 anti-terrorism laws and surveillance initiatives on online privacy and free expression. Before joining EFF, Kevin was the Justice William J. Brennan First Amendment Fellow for the American Civil Liberties Union in New York City. At the ACLU, Kevin litigated Internet-related free speech cases, including First Amendment challenges to both the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (Edelman v. N2H2, Inc.) and a federal statute regulating Internet speech in public libraries (American Library Association v. U.S.). Kevin received his J.D. in 2001 from the University of Southern California Law Center, and received his undergraduate degree from the University of Texas in Austin.