Hijacker of Cuban plane convicted (MH)

Walter Lippmann walterlx at enet.cu
Thu Jul 10 16:48:01 MDT 2003


(Well, a little bit of good DOES happen and
67 minutes is much better than two hours,
which would have been fully 120 minutes!

(His accomplice-girlfriend wasn't charged.
Next up, a trial of six other Cuban hijackers.)
=================================

MIAMI HERALD
Posted on Thu, Jul. 10, 2003

Hijacker of Cuban plane convicted of air piracy
BY JENNIFER BABSON
jbabson at herald.com

KEY WEST - A federal jury took about 67 minutes Thursday to
convict a Cuban man of air piracy for an April incident in
which he brandished two fake grenades and forced a Cubana
airlines passenger plane to Key West under U.S. fighter jet
escort.

Adermis Wilson Gonzalez, 34, now faces at least 20 years in
prison.

His attorney, Stewart G. Abrams, said Thursday he will
appeal the verdict, which was rendered by a four-woman,
eight-man panel. Wilson is scheduled to be sentenced in
Miami Sept. 19 by U.S. District Judge Shelby Highsmith.

Abrams declined to comment specifically on the jury's
decision.

Asst. U.S. Attorney Lilly Ann Sanchez, who tried the case
along with Asst. U.S. Attorney Seth Eric Miles, said she was
pleased.

"We are extremely satisfied," she said.

The March 31-April 1 incident -- which began on the Isle of
Youth on Cuba's south coast -- occurred less than two weeks
after the hijacking of another Cuban airliner from the same
airport. Prosecutors argued that Wilson unleased a "15-hour
night of terror" when he produced two realistic-looking
ceramic grenades and told passengers and crew that he would
blow up the Havana-bound plane if it wasn't diverted to the
United States.

But the aircraft only had about 15 minutes of fuel left,
according to prosecutors and witnesses. So it landed on a
Havana runway instead, where it sat for hours as
negotiators -- including Cuban President Fidel Castro and
the top U.S. diplomat in Cuba, James Cason -- tried
unsuccessfully to talk Wilson down. Eventually -- late in
the morning on April 1 -- the plane was refueled and allowed
to depart for Florida.

Thursday's verdict followed a decision earlier in the day by
Highsmith to bar Wilson from testifying that he changed his
mind about the hijacking in Havana but was afraid to
surrender for fear of being killed. Highsmith also warned
that if Wilson violated that edict, he would observe the
rest of the trial "on a monitor in a room upstairs."

Wilson addressed Highsmith but not jurors, saying the
judge's prohibition would leave him with little to say and
so he would not take the stand. Wilson had been
scheduled as the defense's only witness.

"I would not be able to testify freely," Wilson told
Highsmith in Spanish through a translator. "I think I would
be left without any opportunity to give testimony about this
case."

Abrams later told reporters he had hoped his client would be
allowed to talk about "what happened in Cuba on the ground
and what his state of mind was at the time."

Wilson said nothing and showed no emotion as the verdict was
read. Earlier in the day, he waved to his common-law wife
and 3-year-old stepson in the courtroom. Both accompanied
him on the hijacked flight and are living in Naples.

Wilson is expected to be transferred to the Federal
Detention Center in Miami shortly.








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