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Films and Commentary from Saul Landau » Article / Commentary

Cuban 5: A Judge Grants Dubious Probation

September 29, 2011 · · Originally published in Progreso Weekly

After ten years in prison, Rene Gonzalez is about to be free. But a stubborn judge wants him to remain in Miami with no protection from the Cuban exile terrorist groups there.

In 2001, Miami Federal Judge Joan Lenard sentenced five Cuban agents to long prison terms for conspiracy to commit espionage (although no evidence of espionage appeared during the trial). Rene Gonzalez, 55, like the other four, denied he ever engaged in or conspired to commit espionage.

Rene will be released on October 7. Lenard’s conditions demand that Rene remain in Miami for three years and be monitored by parole officers, and that he not have any contact with terrorists.

They will return: a billboard in Cuba honors the Cuban Five. Photo by smithdm3 (flicker).Neither condition makes sense. An admitted Cuban agent living in Miami; a man who infiltrated the anti-Castro Brothers to the Rescue and could not find an insurance company to write a policy on his life. Bookies would be taking bets on when – not if – he gets assassinated. Hit men abound in the area.

The Justice Department has allowed a slew of proud (boasting) assassins to walk the streets of Miami and hold fundraising dinners in their honor. The mayor and council of Hialeah awarded the keys to their city to Luis Posada Carriles (aka the Osama bin Laden of the Western Hemisphere) and the late Orlando Bosch received honorary awards at the University of Miami. Declassified CIA and FBI documents and testimony from the men they hired to plant the bombs point clearly to both men’s responsibility for the bombing of a Cuban passenger airliner over Barbados on October 6, 1976.

Ironically, the judge also forbids Rene to have any association with terrorists – as if he would seek the company of those who want to assassinate him. She might have issued an edict forbidding the terrorists to have any association with Rene. At least that would have shown she had a sense (droll) of humor.

Her edict confining Rene to live in Miami, or dooming him to do so, confirms the blood lust running viral through the U.S. judiciary system.

In February, Gonzalez had asked the court to allow him to return to Cuba where his family lives. He cited the fact, known to all grown ups in Miami, that if he hits the streets in that city he would likely face serious danger to his life from the Cuban exile terrorist groups there.

Last week, Lenard denied Rene’s request to change her absurd probation conditions for him. She did agree to review those conditions at a later time. After he’s dead?

Did the judge catch “Kill ‘em fever?” Is she proving her macho reputation endures? Or is she applying “tough love” to the principals of probation – as in, “let’s see if he survives a couple of assassination attempts and then we can review his case.”

Fresh on the heels of Georgia’s murder of Troy Davis, Judge Lenard’s ruling stands as the equivalent of a death sentence to Rene. Well, as one of Rick Perry’s enthusiastic backers said: “It takes balls to kill an innocent man.”

It’s possible the judge might have aspirations to achieve number 1 rating as the worst and cruelest federal judge in the United States. Her performance at the trial of the Cuban five a decade ago would have won her honors for bias – siding with the prosecution on almost every motion and denying a change in venue for the five Cuban state security agents who had come to Florida to infiltrate and monitor exile groups intent on carrying out violence and terrorism in Cuba.

Lenard understood that the chances of a jury acquitting Cuban agents in Miami would be less than a chance for a Jew in Berlin to receive a fair verdict under the Nazis. Lenard repeatedly denied defense requests for a change in venue, and after a 3 judge appellate panel ruled for such a change the whole appeals court (Republican appointees) upheld her decision.

Another possibility exists of course. Before the original trial, a man who looked like an actor on “The Sopranos” might have approached the judge in a supermarket and told her how beautiful her children were and how they would grow up to great successes. And he was sure she would do the right thing at the trial. Certainly the trial jurors understood that an acquittal for the five could have brought them certain, less than perfect consequences, the best of which would have been getting their houses burned to the ground. Those are the rules in the “Autonomous Republic of Miami.”

A decade ago, an Appeals Court forced Judge Lenard to revise downward her harsh sentence to the men known as the Cuban Five. One would assume that her grudge against Rene would have cooled by now. Or did the same Sopranos actor meet her again at the supermarket to remind her of possible consequences should she act like a human being?

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions and countless legal and human rights groups along with Parliamentary delegations and Nobel laureates have joined Amnesty International in challenging the very legitimacy of the arrest of the Five and the proceeding of Judge Lenard’s court. Indeed, most have concluded that bias from the bench is far too mild a term to describe her conduct as presiding judge. But she could get her name etched in legal history – as worst judge of her era.

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