Sunday, March 4, 2012

Freed Cuban spy trapped in the U.S.

Havana doctors: Grim prognosis for brother of convicted spy
Roberto González, a lawyer in Havana, is in imminent danger. He was recovering from lung cancer treatment when doctors discovered a malignant brain tumor and life-threatening circulatory problems.
Roberto González
His brother, René, is desperate to see Roberto González one last time. But he can't just hop on a plane.
René González was convicted in the notorious Wasp Network spy case in 2001. He served 13 years of a 15-year sentence before being freed in October 2011.
As part of his three-year supervised release, González must get permission from the court or his probation officer to travel to Cuba.
His lawyer, Philip Horowitz, filed a four-page motion on Feb. 24 asking that District Court Judge Joan A. Lenard allow González to travel to Havana for two weeks to see his brother. (See Cuban doctors' report on González in Spanish and in English). Lenard hasn't yet responded, according to online court records consulted today.
President Bill Clinton nominated Lenard to the district court in 1995. In 2009, she reduced the sentences of two men convicted in the same Cuban spy case that sent González to prison for 15 years.
But in September she denied René González' request to modify his sentencing agreement to travel to Cuba. In a four-page ruling, she wrote:
The Court finds that Defendant’s Motion is premature. ... Some amount of time on supervised release needs to pass before the Court is able to properly evaluate the characteristics of the defendant once he or she has been released from prison or whether there is a continued need to protect the public from further crimes.
René González
Prosecutors had argued that González was a potential threat and needed supervision. In a 13-page document, they wrote:
The serious nature of his offenses as part of a conspiracy to defraud the United States and to operate as the covert agent of a foreign power; his expressed lack of remorse; and his stated commitment to continue doing what he feels necessary to “improve” the United States all reflect the wisdom and necessity for the court’s original sentence, including three years of supervised release with special conditions designed to protect public interests to the maximum allowed. This is especially so because Gonzalez is a United States citizen, with the ability to remain in, or to travel and return to, the United States in the future, including once his supervised release ends.

In the same document, prosecutors said it wasn't as if the sentencing agreement made it impossible for González to visit Cuba. They wrote:
...the provisions of Gonzalez’s supervised release do not “banish” him from Cuba during its term. He is subject to the standard condition not to leave the judicial district of his supervision “without the permission of the court or probation officer,” DE 1437:3. Nothing will prevent him from seeking leave from his probation officer (or, if denied, from the court) to travel to Cuba to visit his wife, aged parents or others. Such requests can be considered by the probation officer or the court, in the light of their reasonableness and merit. This provides an important leeway to respond to Gonzalez’s humanitarian concerns.
Horowitz said prosecutors' arguments were full of contradictions. In a four-page motion, he wrote:
The government’s zeal to continue to punish Rene Gonzalez by separating him from his family has no connection with his exercise of his right to trial. 
The government may not have liked or agreed with what Mr. Gonzalez had to say but it then became the court’s obligation to impose what the court felt to be a reasonable sentence upon him. The court imposed a consecutive sentence at the statutory maximum for each of the two counts of conviction for a total of fifteen years incarceration. 
Whether he was remorseful or not, this court imposed the absolute highest sentence permitted by the law. However, from what appears to be much chagrin from the government, that sentence is about to end. The defendant is not seeking to rehash his allocution but be permitted to return to Cuba as outlined within the motion. 
Clearly, through this media intensive and high profile trial, any chance of the defendant engaging in covert activity is nonexistent. The press coverage world wide has made the defendant rather well known and impossible to ever act in a covert fashion alleged by the government. In this age of the information superhighway, those chances are nil. 
At the time of his arrest, Rene Gonzalez’s employment was primarily as a licensed pilot and a flight instructor. Rene Gonzalez has not flown since 1998 and his pilot’s license has lapsed. If he is permitted to return to Cuba, he cannot use his status as a pilot to penetrate or report on activities of Miami organizations who are known to be against the Cuban government, he could not implement “active measures” in Miami, take taskings from Miami-based Cuban intelligence officers, or manipulate the FBI as alleged by the government. Therefore, the government’s “fears” about the defendant returning to his former activity are totally impossible if he is in Cuba. 
The government clearly misses the point that the best place for the defendant not to engage in criminal conduct and protect the public in Miami is if the defendant is permitted to return to his family in Cuba. Clearly none of the conduct that the government cites in their motion occurred while the defendant was in Cuba but only when he was here in Miami. To adopt the government’s non-humanitarian stance would be to have the defendant reside once again in Miami itself.
González' supporters urge the court to act quickly because his brother is in grave condition. Horowitz wrote:
According to the doctors in Havana, the prognosis for Roberto Gonzalez is not good as he is not responding to treatment and his condition continues to worsen. The original cancerous tumors that was found is his lung is growing again and is pressing against vena cava cutting of his circulation. The prognosis is not optimistic and Rene Gonzalez seeks permission of the court to travel to Cuba as soon as this court allows for a period of two (2) weeks. This will allow his to spend time with his seriously ill brother.

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