Federal judge reduces ‘Cuban Five’ spying sentences

Federal judge reduces ‘Cuban Five’ spying sentences

[JURIST] A judge on the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida on Tuesday reduced the sentences of two men convicted of spying for Cuba as part of the so-called "Cuban Five" [advocacy website; JURIST news archive]. Judge Joan Lenard reduced [Miami Herald report] the life sentence of Ramon Labanino, also known as Luis Medina, to 30 years and reduced the sentence of Fernando Gonzalez from 19 years to 18 years. Lenard had reduced the sentence of a third man, Antonio Guerrero, from life to 22 years in October. The reductions in sentences came after the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] ruled last year that the sentences were excessive. Medina, Gonzales, and Guerrero said [press release] Tuesday:

Three of us have come to the Miami Court to be re-sentenced due to an order from the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which determined that our sentences had been erroneously imposed.

Our brother Gerardo Hernandez, who is serving two life terms plus 15 years, has been arbitrarily excluded from this re-sentencing process. His situation remains the principal injustice in our case. The US Government is well aware of the falseness of the accusations against him and the unfairness of his sentence.

The men plan to continue to seek a full pardon.

The men, considered national heroes in their homeland, were arrested in 1998 and convicted in 2001 of spying for Cuba. They admitted they were Cuban spies, but said they were watching the activities of exile groups opposed to former Cuban leader Fidel Castro [BBC profile], rather than the US government. In 2005, the Eleventh Circuit ruled [JURIST report] that the trial in Miami was biased due to community prejudice and extensive media coverage. The government appealed that decision, and during a rehearing [JURIST reports] before the full appeals court, the defendants argued that "the pervasive community prejudice against the Cuban government and its agents and the publicity surrounding the trial that existed in Miami prevented them from obtaining a fair and impartial trial." The full federal appeals court upheld [JURIST report] the convictions in 2006. The US Supreme Court in June declined to hear an appeal [JURIST report].