In this post 9-11 world we live in, there are good-guys, and bad-guys. Unfortunately, the U.S. Department of Justice seems incapable of discerning the difference between the two.
Instead of helping brave patriots further the declared goal of spreading democracy, they criminalize them.
From the Miami Herald:
MIAMI – An aging alliance of anti-Castro militants who had stockpiled weapons, explosives and ammunition in South Florida ended up helping two of their imprisoned associates obtain reduced sentences Wednesday after turning over the arsenal to U.S. authorities.
The unprecedented arms surrender earlier this year led to U.S. District Judge James Cohn’s decision to reduce developer Santiago Alvarez’s sentence from 46 months to 30 months and his colleague Osvaldo Mitat’s term from 37 months to 24 months.
Both defendants, in their mid-60s, pleaded guilty to weapons charges last fall in a conspiracy case that crossed county lines and had ties to a notorious Cuban exile militant now under federal investigation. Their high-powered team of defense lawyers characterized the firearms surrender as the end of an era for Miami-Dade’s anti-Castro forces in the post-Sept. 11 world.
The “anonymous donors” turned over 14 pounds of plastic explosives, 200 pounds of dynamite, 4,000 feet of detonator cord, 30 semiautomatic and automatic weapons, one grenade launcher, and two handmade grenades, among other items. The donors, who had surrendered the cache at a lawyer’s office in Miami, are not under investigation.
“These would have been a treasure trove for our nation’s worst enemies,” said Kendall Coffey, one of Alvarez’s lawyers and a former U.S. attorney in Miami. “What would have been a treasure chest for al-Qaida is a godsend for our community.”
On Wednesday, Cohn recognized the two men’s “substantial assistance” to federal prosecutors by getting their associates to hand over the illegal weapons in January. The Fort Lauderdale judge gave them about one-third off their prison terms – more than the one-quarter reduction prosecutors suggested.
With time served and good behavior, Alvarez could be free as early as the end of the year and Mitat could be out by August. They have been in custody since November 2005.
“We’re very happy we’re going to see him home soon,” said Alvarez’s son, Santiago Alvarez Jr.
Both Alvarez and Mitat pleaded guilty last September to conspiring to possess illegal weapons in a 2005 criminal case unrelated to the firearms surrender. At their sentencings in November, both men maintained that the weapons were meant to help battle Fidel Castro’s totalitarian government – not to harm the United States.
Coffey said both Alvarez and Mitat were seen as “heroes” in the Cuban exile community and that the unknown donors of the weapons arsenal were “freedom fighters.” He said their firearms surrender signaled a “chapter being closed” in the militant struggle against Castro.
During the court hearing, Coffey also offered several examples of the kind of damage the “terrifying” weapons could have done if they had fallen into the wrong hands – including pulverizing the federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jacqueline Arango said the pair deserved to have their sentences reduced because of the “substantial” firearms turnover.
The weapons surrender was considerably larger than the nine illegal firearms identified by federal authorities in November 2005 when they charged Alvarez and Mitat in Broward County.
Alvarez had stashed those nine weapons and other firearms at an apartment complex he owns in Lauderhill. Alvarez conspired with Mitat to move those weapons to another apartment building he owns in Miami-Dade after FBI and Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents had raided one of the developer’s offices in Hialeah.
An FBI informant, who had been friendly with Alvarez and Mitat, told federal agents about the weapons transfer – leading to their arrests.
The Hialeah office raid was triggered by the emergence of longtime anti-Castro activist Luis Posada Carriles in Miami in May 2005. Authorities believe that Alvarez, Mitat, the FBI informant and others brought Posada by boat from Mexico to the United States.
The unusual arms turnover has no connection to Posada’s problems with federal authorities. Posada, 79, a former CIA-trained explosives expert, has been cleared by a Texas federal judge in an immigration fraud case that federal prosecutors appealed this week.
Still outstanding for Alvarez and Mitat: A trial on contempt charges in the grand jury’s investigation of the Posada immigration case.
Both men, who had been granted immunity by the Justice Department, refused to testify about Posada in El Paso. Their trial is set for Aug. 20.
Meanwhile, the persecution of Luis Posada continues….The U.S. Department of Justice is appealing the decision to dismiss the immigration fraud charges against Luis Posada Carriles.