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El Paso Diary: Day 11 in the Trial of Posada Carriles

Judge Cardone at the Center of the Drama

by José Pertierra
Feb. 2, 2011
Reprinted from CounterPunch

Gilberto Abascal

The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) scrambled to investigate complaints made this afternoon from the witness stand by a key witness at the trial of Luis Posada Carriles that a defense attorney for Posada is harassing his family, his friends and himself.

Gilberto Abascal, a handyman who was aboard the shrimp boat that brought Posada to Miami in March of 2005, testified that it is not true that Posada entered the United States through the border with Mexico with the help of a coyote in a pickup truck, as Posada said under oath at his prior immigration hearings. Abascal says that he saw Posada Carriles disembark in Miami from a boat called the Santrina.

The drama

We could almost see this afternoon's drama coming. The courtroom is located at the end of a long, wide hallway that begins at the elevator exit on the fifth floor of the new $74 million dollar federal courthouse. Walking down this hallway, I could see Abascal at the end, all alone in an isolated wooden chair, with both buttons of his coat jacket seemingly about to burst. Everyone else was already in the courtroom, waiting for the proceedings to begin. As I walked toward him, I noticed that he was very upset. I had to approach very close to him in order to enter the courtroom. He looked as though he was staring at the floor, but when he felt someone draw near, he looked up. That's when I saw his eyes. They were puffed up and red. He had been crying.

Speaking with the witnesses is prohibited, and I didn't linger. Instead, I opened the door and entered the courtroom wondering what happened.

I didn't have to wait long. Two minutes later, the clerk of the court sounded the gavel three times. "All rise!" he said, announcing the entrance of Judge Kathleen Cardone. She asked if the attorneys had any preliminary matters to discuss before she brought the jury into court. Timothy J. Reardon, the lead prosecutor in the case, rose and slowly approached the podium. Reardon suffers from a limp and uses a wooden cane as he walks. He was a running back on the University of North Carolina football team decades ago and recently underwent a knee operation.

"Your Honor, the witness is crying," Reardon told the judge, "and I ask the Court to instruct him how to behave himself in court." Reardon was worried that Abascal would not be able to continue, because his testimony is key to some of the perjury charges against Posada Carriles. Immediately, Judge Cardone asked that Abascal be summoned. He entered, eyes very red, head lowered and shoulders slumped. He sat in the witness box and the judge said, "Mr. Abascal, it appears to me that you are distraught. Can you tell me what's going on?" "Arturo Hernández is interfering with my former wife and she called me to tell me that due to the harassment, she doesn't want to have anything to do with me," Abascal told the judge before the jury was called in.

"He's interfered with my family. Mr. Hernández sent an investigator to my house to steal some photos of my ex-wife. I haven't harassed his family, but he's harassed mine," explained the witness. Observing Mr. Abascal´s emotional distress, the judge became quite concerned that Abascal couldn't continue testifying. This would, of course, be devastating to the government's case against Posada, since Abascal´s testimony is key to most of the perjury and false declarations charges against him. The judge tried to calm the witness, but also explained to Abascal that Posada Carriles' attorney has the right to do everything within legal parameters to defend his client.

With a halting voice, Abascal answered: "I'm going to defend myself. They are trying to intimidate people. They dress up like federal agents to intimidate my wife and my friends." Hernández asked to respond to Abascal's accusations but explained that he'd prefer to do it at sidebar. He didn't want Abascal to hear his response. The judge asked that he approach the bench to whisper his response. Two of the prosecutors, Timothy J. Reardon and Jerome Teresinski, approached as well.


The scene at sidebar was surreal. Judge Cardone, perched atop the bench, leaned over from the waist, listening to an agitated Hernández whispering his innocence.

So that witnesses and observers cannot hear what is discussed amongst the judge and the attorneys at sidebar, the courts use a muffler. Usually its clatter is enough to muffle the sound of the voices, but suddenly Hernández forgot to whisper and everyone in the court heard his agitated voice rise, "I'm an attorney. I don't have anything to do with this guy. I haven't done anything except serve subpoenas." The court's silencer muffled the rest of the conversation.

With the sidebar concluded, the judge switched off the muffler and told Abascal that she was instructing the FBI to immediately get in touch with him and his family to begin an investigation, but that he may not mix those matters up with the pending criminal case in which he is testifying. Abascal, not entirely satisfied with that, insisted, "I want you to get Arturo Hernández to return the photos that he stole from the house." To settle things down, the judge called for a ten-minute recess in the proceedings, and Prosecutor Teresinski left the courtroom with his witness to try and call him down. After all, Posada's lawyer would soon resume what the defense hoped would be a withering cross-examination, designed to break Abascal.

During the recess, Posada stood up and went over to his lawyer to figure out what was happening. At first, we couldn't hear any of their words. They were whispering. Hernández said something close in his client's ear, and Posada reacted in a very loud and raspy voice that I could clearly hear from the front row where I was sitting, "Who could believe that Arturo Hernández is capable of such things! You are a prestigious lawyer! Can you imagine, some photographs . . . ha ha ha."

The jury returns

Ten minutes after the recess, we heard the gavel and the familiar cry of "All rise!" from the Clerk. Judge Cardone resumed her seat on the bench, and Abascal came back with Teresinski trailing behind him. Would Abascal continue? What emotional state was he in? The only sign was a deep-felt sigh from Teresinski that made both his cheeks puff like a blowfish, as he sat down at the prosecutor's table. At that precise moment, you could have cut the tension with a knife.

With the jury reconvened, Hernández renewed his cross-examination regarding Abascal's medical records. He questioned him about his alleged command hallucinations. Those who suffer from them hear voices and sounds that do not exist. They are also called second person hallucinations, in which a voice appears to address an order directly to the patient: such as, you are going to do…

"Do you suffer from command hallucinations?" Hernández asked the still agitated witness.

"No," answered Abascal.

"Do you feel persecuted?"

"Yes," said Abascal, "by you."

Just as he did yesterday afternoon, upon hearing the witness´ response Hernández again moved for a mistrial. It's the third time that the defense attorney moved to annul these proceedings. The judge then asked Mr. Abascal to go into the hallway and the jury to retire to their anteroom. She wanted Hernández to be free to argue his motion without their presence.

"I haven't done anything wrong," began the attorney. "I've investigated this case, and I've hired investigators to do so. I've served papers on certain people so that they might come to testify in court."

Hernández tried to clearly establish his innocence. It's a federal crime, a felony, to tamper with a witness. The sanctions are severe and include up to 20 years in prison.

"It's patently false that I broke the law or that I would have illegally entered his house to steal 33 photos," he said. "My investigators took photographs of his ex-wife and also took statements from her," he declared, "but since 2006, no one connected with my office has surveilled Abascal. We have only served subpoenas. The witness said to the jury that I was persecuting him," complained Hernández, "and they might think that it's something I would have done, but this idea of Abascal's comes from his own mental instability."
Posada Carriles' attorney concluded by telling Judge Cardone that he wasn't happy with what the jury had heard and that the prosecutors couldn't control their own witness. The judge patiently listened to Hernandez's arguments in favor of a possible mistrial, something that were the court to grant it, would mean that the prosecution would have to bring a new case against Posada Carriles and start again. That is a weighty proposition in terms of time, money, attorneys and investigators. Hernández is betting that a mistrial will mean that the government will decide to drop the charges against his client

The judge rejected Hernández's motion for a mistrial, but she couched her decision with a resounding "for now." She explained that there were not yet sufficient reasons to think that this jury is prejudiced against Hernández or Posada Carriles despite Abascal's allegations. She reminded Hernández that the majority of Abascal's statements against him were made outside the presence of the jury.

"It's the truth. You know it is"

Abascal has been testifying for four straight days. More time than it took Posada Carriles to travel from Isla Mujeres to Miami on the Santrina in March of 2005. If anyone were to ask Abascal, I'm sure that he would say that these four days have felt like forty. The case will continue tomorrow. During the course of the afternoon today, Hernández hammered away at Abascal´s prior inconsistent statements to the FBI, and to the misrepresentations he made to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and to the Social Security Administration regarding his finances. Abascal claims that Santiago Alvarez told him that if the authorities asked, he was to deny that Posada had been aboard the Santrina. When the FBI first questioned him, he did so. However, he later admitted to FBI Agent Omar Vega that Posada rode the Santrina all the way into Miami from Isla Mujeres. Abascal also admitted that in the past he had misrepresented his earnings to the IRS and to the Social Security Administration.

Abascal told the jury that he accepted full responsibility for his past transgressions and that if he has to face criminal charges for them, he will, but that he is telling the truth when he says that the Santrina picked up Posada Carriles in Isla Mujeres and brought him to Miami with Santiago Álvarez, Osvaldo Mitat, Rubén López Castro and Pepín Pujol aboard. "It's the truth. You know it is," he emphasized to the attorney for Luis Posada Carriles.
Kofi or Coffey?

Amidst today's tension there is a bit of levity. Near the end of the day, Abascal recalled how he'd told Santiago Álvarez, the owner of the Santrina and Posada's financial benefactor, that he was very afraid. "Santiago gave me a business card and told me that if I have any legal problem, I can call Kofi Annan." I don't think that Abascal was referring to the Ghanaian diplomat who at the time was Secretary-General of the United Nations. The business card probably belonged to Kendall Coffey, a well-known Miami criminal defense attorney who represented Elián Gonzalez's Miami relatives. Coffey later went on to represent Santiago Alvarez on federal weapons and passport charges.
The hearing ended with the news that during the course of the afternoon, the FBI office in Miami contacted Abascal´s ex-wife there and that the El Paso FBI office was available to speak with Abascal immediately after today's hearing, as well to investigate his charges of tampering and harassment.

José Pertierra practices law in Washington, DC. He represents the government of Venezuela in the case to extradite Luis Posada Carriles.

Translated by Manuel Talens and Machetera. They are members of Tlaxcala, the international network of translators for linguistic diversity (



Diario de El Paso: La Jueza Cardone en el centro del drama

por José Pertierra
28 de enero de 2011
Tomado de CubaDebate

El Buró Federal de Investigaciones (FBI), por sus siglas en inglés, se movilizó esta tarde para investigar el alegato de Gilberto Abascal, quien aseguró que el abogado de Luis Posada Carriles está hostigando a su familia, a sus amigos y a él.

Abascal es uno de los testigos principales en el caso. Testificó que Posada Carriles le mintió al Departamento de Justicia y al Departamento de Seguridad en el 2005 y 2006, al decir que había ingresado a los Estados Unidos por la frontera con México, cerca de la ciudad de Matamoros, en una camioneta con la ayuda de un coyote. Abascal sostiene que Posada Carriles desembarcó en Miami después de una travesía en un barco llamado el Santrina.


El drama de esta tarde se veía venir. La sala del tribunal está ubicada al final de un largo y ancho pasillo que comienza en la salida de los ascensores. Caminando por ese pasillo podía ver a Abascal, con su traje gris abotonado y apretado, que esperaba en una solitaria silla de madera. Nadie estaba a su alrededor. Lo noté muy perturbado. Para entrar en la sala, tuve que pasar cerquita de él. Me miró y le vi los ojos. Era evidente que había estado llorando. Está prohibido conversar con los testigos y no me detuve. Abrí la puerta y entré en la sala judicial.

El secretario del tribunal tocó el mazo tres veces para anunciar la entrada de la Jueza Kathleen Cardone. Ella preguntó si los abogados tenían algún asunto preliminar antes de avisarle a los integrantes del jurado que pasen y se sienten. En eso, se paró el fiscal principal del caso, Timothy J. Reardon, y lentamente se le acercó al podio. Reardon padece de una cojera al caminar y usa un bastón de madera. Había sido jugador de fútbol en la universidad de Carolina del Norte y se lesionó hace décadas.

“Su Señoría, el testigo está llorando”, le dijo Reardon a la jueza, “y le pido a la Corte que le instruya como comportarse ante el tribunal”. A Reardon le preocupa que Abascal no pueda continuar, porque su testimonio es clave para algunos de los cargos de perjurio contra Posada Carriles. Inmediatamente, la Jueza Cardone pidió que trajeran a Gilberto Abascal. El entró con los ojos muy rojos, la cabeza baja y los hombros caídos. Se sentó en el banco de los testigos y la jueza le dijo: “Sr. Abascal, me parece que usted está perturbado. ¿Me quiere explicar qué le pasa?” ”Arturo Hernández se está metiendo con mi ex mujer y ella me llamó para decirme que debido al hostigamiento, no quiere tener nada que ver conmigo”, le dijo Abascal a la Jueza Kathleen Cardone antes de que convocaran al jurado.

“Se ha metido con mi familia. El Señor Hernández envió un investigador a mi casa para robarse unas fotos de mi ex esposa. Yo no he acosado a su familia, pero él ha acosado a la mía”, explicó el testigo. La preocupación de la jueza en ese momento también era que Abascal no pudiera seguir testificando, porque eso pondrían en jaque la viabilidad del juicio contra Posada Carriles. Le explicó a Abascal que el abogado de Posada Carriles tiene el derecho de hacer todo lo que pueda para defender a su cliente.

Con la voz entrecortada de la emoción, Abascal respondió: “Me voy a defender. Ellos están tratando de intimidar a la gente. Se disfrazan de agentes federales para intimidar a mi esposa y a mis amigos”. Hernández pidió responder a las acusaciones de Abascal, pero explicó que prefería hacerlo en privado. No quería que Abascal escuchara su respuesta. La jueza pidió que se acercara al banco judicial para susurrar su respuesta. También se le acercaron dos de los fiscales: Timothy J. Reardon y Jerome Teresinski.


Una escena surrealista. La jueza inclinada desde la cintura, escuchando a un agitado Hernández suplicar inocencia. Para que los testigos y los observadores no puedan escuchar esas conversaciones privadas (llamadas en inglés, sidebars) entre un juez y los abogados, los tribunales utilizan un silenciador.

Usualmente el traqueteo del silenciador es suficiente para amortiguar el sonido de las voces, pero esta vez escuchamos la agitado voz de Arturo Hernández exclamar estridentemente: “Soy un abogado. No tengo nada que ver con ese tipo. No he hecho nada, salvo enviar citaciones judiciales”. El resto de la convulsiva réplica se extravió con el ruido del aparato.

Concluido el sidebar, la jueza apagó el silenciador y le dijo a Abascal que le estaba instruyendo al FBI que se comunicara con él y con su familia para iniciar una investigación, pero que no podía mezclar ese asunto con el caso pendiente en el cual está testificando. Abascal no estaba satisfecho con eso. ”Quiero que usted logre que Arturo Hernández me devuelva las fotos que me ha robado de la casa”, exclamó. Para que se calmaran los ánimos, la jueza anunció un receso de diez minutos y el fiscal Teresinski salió con Abascal para tratar de tranquilizarlo antes de que resumiera el contra-interrogatorio de Arturo Hernández.

Quizás porque no entendió lo que estaba sucediendo, Posada se levantó de su asiento para hacerle preguntas a su abogado. No se podía escuchar el intercambio, porque ambos conversaban casi en susurros. Hernández le habló algo al oído a su cliente. Posada reaccionó con estridencia: “¡Quién pudiera creer que Arturo Hernández es capaz de estas cosas! Tú eres un abogado de prestigio. Imagínate, unas fotos… ja ja ja”. Su voz se escuchó en claro español desde la primera fila donde estaba yo sentado.


Diez minutos después del receso, volvimos a escuchar los tres toques del mazo que anunciaban la entrada de la Jueza Cardone al Tribunal. Abascal regresó, pero no sabíamos en qué condiciones. Teresinski detrás de él. Antes de sentarse, el fiscal echó una boconada de aire que le salió del alma. La tensión en la corte estaba a flor de piel.

Convocado el jurado a la sala, Hernández inició nuevamente su contra-interrogatorio sobre los expedientes médicos de Abascal. Lo interrogó sobre sus supuestas alucinaciones comando. Estas alucinaciones se caracterizan porque la persona oye voces o sonidos que no existen. A veces obligan a una persona a hacer algo que normalmente no haría. ”¿Usted sufre de alucinaciones comando?”, le preguntó Hernández al aún agitado testigo. ”No”, respondió Abascal. ”¿Usted se siente perseguido?”. ”Sí”, le respondió Abascal, “por usted”.

Igual que había hecho ayer por la tarde, poco antes de la conclusión de la audiencia, Hernández le pidió a la jueza que anulara el proceso contra Luis Posada Carriles. Es la tercera vez que el abogado defensor hace esta petición. La jueza despidió otra vez al jurado y al testigo para poder escuchar libremente la petición del abogado Hernández. “No he hecho nada malo”, dijo el abogado. ”He investigado este caso y he empleado a investigadores para hacerlo. Le he presentado citatorios a ciertas personas para que vengan a testificar en corte”. Hernández trató de establecer claramente su inocencia. Es un delito federal, una felonía, manipular a un testigo. Las sanciones son severas e incluye hasta 20 años de prisión.

“Es palpablemente falso que yo violé la ley o que yo haya entrado furtivamente en su casa para robarme 33 fotos”, dijo. ”Mis investigadores le tomaron fotos y obtuvieron declaraciones de su ex esposa”, enfatizó, “y desde el 2006 nadie relacionado con mi oficina lo ha vigilado”. ”Abascal dijo ante el jurado que yo lo estaba persiguiendo”, se quejó Hernández, “y ellos pueden pensar que es algo que yo haya hecho, pero la idea esa de Abascal se derriba con su propia inestabilidad mental”.

El abogado de Posada Carriles le dijo a la jueza que no está feliz con lo que ha escuchado el jurado y que los fiscales no pueden controlar a su propio testigo. La jueza pacientemente escuchó los argumentos de Arturo Hernández a favor de una posible nulificación del proceso contra Posada Carriles, algo que si lo concediera el tribunal significaría que la fiscalía tendría que comenzar un nuevo caso y todo lo que eso representa en términos de tiempo, abogados, investigadores y dinero, si quieren condenar a Posada.

La jueza rechazó la petición de Hernández, por ahora. Explicó que no existen suficientes razones para pensar que este jurado está parcializado contra Arturo Hernández o Luis Posada Carriles, pese a las acusaciones de Gilberto Abascal. Le recordó a Hernández que la mayoría de las declaraciones de Abascal contra él las dijo sin la presencia del jurado.


Abascal ha estado testificando por cuatro días consecutivos. Mástiempo que se tardó el Santrina en llegar a Miami desde Isla Mujeres, con Posada Carriles a bordo. Si alguien le preguntara a Abascal, estoy seguro que diría que estos cuatro días le han parecido cuarenta.

Mañana continúa el caso, pero Arturo Hernández concluyó su contra-interrogatorio esta tarde. Machacó sobre el hecho de que Abascal le mintió anteriormente al FBI, a la contraloría y al Departamento de Seguro Social. Abascal asumió responsabilidad por eso y dijo que si tiene que enfrentar un proceso penal lo haría, pero está diciendo la verdad al declarar que el Santrina recogió a Posada Carriles en Isla Mujeres y lo llevó hasta Miami, con Santiago Alvarez, Osvaldo Mitat, Rubén López Castro y Pepín Pujol. ”Usted sabe que es verdad”, le volvió a repetir al abogado Hernández. Finalmente, Abascal contó que le había dicho a Santiago Alvarez que tenía mucho miedo. “Él me dio una tarjeta y me dijo que si tengo algúnproblema legal puedo llamar a Koffi Anan.” Creo que quería decir Kendall Coffey, un conocido abogado penalista de Miami, quien anteriormente representó a la parentela lejana del niño Elián González en Miami.

La audiencia concluyó con la noticia de que durante el curso del testimonio de Gilberto Abascal en El Paso, el FBI se había comunicado con su ex esposa en Miami y que la oficina local del FBI en la ciudad floridana estaría dispuesta a conversar con él e investigar el posible acoso que ha sufrido.

José Pertierra es abogado y tiene su bufete en Washington DC. Es el representante legal del gobierno de Venezuela para la extradición de Luis Posada Carriles.


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