Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Prosecution: Defense is misleading jury in Posada Carriles case

The defense this week scored another victory in the trial of anti-Castro militant Luis Posada Carriles. Judge Kathleen Cardone on Monday refused to allow prosecutors to ask their star witness, Gilberto Abascal:
  • Why he decided to cooperate with the FBI
  • Why his cooperation had nearly gotten him killed - twice
  • Why he had to be relocated
  • Whe it's been difficult to keep a regular job
All that seems like important, relevant stuff, but Cardone said such a line of questioning would be prejudicial to Posada Carriles.
Her ruling boosts defense lawyer Arturo Hernandez, who has painted Abascal as a mentally unstable double agent who received more than $70,000 to testify against Posada Carriles.
In an eight-page motion, prosecutors said:
The jury was thus left with an incomplete and misleading record of Mr. Abascal's contractual arrangement with the FBI, which, unless corrected through redirect examination, will mislead and confuse the jury. The United States therefore respectfully requests that it be permitted, during redirect examination, to correct the misimpression that Mr. Abascal was paid approximately $70,000 to inform the FBI on the defendant Posada.
Prosecutors said Abascal began acting as an informant while the FBI was investigating claims that two of Posada Carriles' associates - Santiago Alvarez and Osvaldo Mitat - had unregistered firearms. Their motion reads:
...Mr. Abascal was questioned extensively on cross examination about the benefit he believed he would received if cooperated with the FBI. Specifically, these questions were focused on whether Mr. Abascal believed that the United States would assist him with the N-400 application for Naturalization which he had filed in 2004. However, the testimony that was elicited did not inform the jury that Mr. Abascal initially became an FBI informant because of his role in an entirely separate case. When Mr. Abascal signed an agreement with the FBI in August 2005 to act as an informant, FBI agents were actively investigating claims -- including reports by Mr. Abascal -- that Santiago Alvarez and Osvaldo Mitat were in possession of unregistered illegal firearms, including military style weapons.
Prosecutors said Abascal's cooperation with the FBI has nearly gotten him killed. They wrote:
As a result of his involvement as a witness and informant in the case involving Alvarez and Mitat, Mr. Abascal's life was placed in danger. In November 2005, the FBI placed Mr. Abascal into protective housing due to this danger. In August 2006, Mr. Abascal was fired upon by an unknown assailant as he exited a commercial establishment in his vehicle. In January 2007, a large pipe bomb was placed in Mr. Abascal's vehicle. The United States should be permitted to introduce these facts to inform the jury of the reasons that Mr. Abascal became an informant in the first place, as well as the hardships that have resulted from his role as an informant.
Abascal couldn't work regularly because the government had hidden him to keep him from getting killed. Prosecutors wrote:
On cross examination, Mr. Abascal truthfully replied that he did not work during 2006. However, he was not given the opportunity to explain that his unemployment was directly tied to his November 2005 placement by the FBI into protective housing. The United States should be allowed to redirect Mr. Abascal about the reasons for his placement in protective housing, so that the jury understands it was not Mr. Abascal's choice to remain unemployed for a full year.
Prosecutors also wanted to tell jurors that Abascal has been reliable as an informant in the past and isn't some kook. They wrote:
...there were at least two relevant instances in which Mr. Abascal provided information that the FBI later corroborated. First, In August 2005, Mr. Abascal informed the FBI about the existence of a cache of illegal weapons in Guinchos Cay, Bahamas. The FBI investigated this claim and indeed located grenade launchers, plastic explosives, C-4 explosives, several operative grenade rounds, and other illegal weapons -- at least one of which was traced back to an associate of Santiago Alvarez. Second, Mr. Abascal informed the FBI about the existence of illegal weapons at Inverary Village, an apartment complex owned by Santiago Alvarez, located in Waterhill, Florida. Acting upon information provided by Mr. Abascal, the FBI executed a search warrant at Inverary Village and  located blasting caps, detonating devices, and other evidence that weapons had been stored in that location.
The United States should be permitted to question the witness on redirect examination about these tips that he provided to the FBI, in order to show that any health disorders from which he may suffer do not cloud his recollection and do not prevent him from providing reliable information to law enforcement authorities.

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