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Valijagate Trial Update IX: Sentencing Franklin Duran

Franklin_Duran-Conejitas.2.jpgBy Revolter

Those were the days, weren't they, Frank? Hold on to the memories - and the soap - because tonight Judge Joan Lenard will let us know how much prison time you'll get for your role in the overhyped "Suitcase Scandal." Attorney Ed Shohat is seeking a 3-year sentence, yeah right. Let's see how everyone else has made out so far.

Carlos Kauffman, who gave up all the juicy details about how Chavez invented corruption in Latin America, got only 15 months. He should be out this month due to time served and good behavior. Judge Lenard praised his four days of testimony as "truthful, complete, reliable and forthright under very difficult circumstances."

Moises Maionica, the Venezuelan lawyer who testified that he was told that Chavez personally took an interest in the case received 2 years. The judge cited Maionica's "extraordinary assistance" to prosecutors at his sentencing.

Rodolfo Wanseele Paciello, the poor schlep with no money, private attorney, or trial testimony, got 3 years - despite being the least involved in the alleged cover-up. "While his involvement was short in duration, it was important," Lenard said at his hearing. Unfortunately for Wanselee, he just didn't have enough dirt (real or otherwise) on the Venezuelan government to make him valuable to the prosecution.

"Justice," apparently, requires that Duran be punished for refusing to plead guilty in the politically charged trial. But will the judge try to send some sort of wacky message at Duran's expense? And how does all this shit compare with past 18 USC § 951, "unregistered foreign agent" cases, ones that actually involved some sort of espionage? Tons of facts plus wild speculation, after the jump!

[UPDATE: The sentencing has just been postponed until March. Yeesh. Sorry dude]

Leandro Aragoncillo, a former U.S. Marine who worked in Dick Cheney's office and then for the FBI, plead guilty to four espionage charges in 2007. One was 18 USC § 951, but the most serious - conspiracy to transmit national defense information - could have carried the death penalty. Born in the Philippines, Aragoncillo passed on classified intelligence to Filipino officials for about five years. He received 10 years in prison.

Gazi Al-Awadi, plead guilty to 18 USC § 951 in 2007. He admitted to obtaining information on individuals and groups in the United States who were opposed to Saddam Hussein and passing the information on to Iraqi intelligence agents in 2002. Iraqi officials paid him more than $1,000. He got 18 months.

Like Duran, Sami Latchin fought the law and the law won. Latchin was recruited by the Iraqi intelligence services to report on the activities of Assyrian Christians in the US. It became clear that he was a horrible "spy" sending back only public records to Iraq. The jury convicted him, and the judge felt kinda sorry for him. In 2007, he got 4 years.

Khaled Dumiesi also contested the charges against him, but a jury convicted him of violating 18 USC § 951 as well as lying to a grand jury and immigration officials. Apparently he worked for Iraqi intelligence by writing some reader-less newspaper that criticized US Mid-East policy and talking to Iraqi UN envoys on the phone. In 2004, smack dab in the middle of the US war on terror/Iraq, Dumiesi got 3 years, 10 months.

Carlos Alvarez admitted to sending encrypted information to Cuban intelligence over a period of 28 years. He also met with intelligence officials while visiting Cuba due to his work as a Florida International University professor. He reported on right-wing Miami terrorist exile "activities" like this one. Apologetic, Alvarez said he only wanted to increase dialogue. First, the FBI offered him immunity for a full confession and tried to recruit him as a double agent. Then they just charged him under several statutes including 18 USC § 951, but he plead guilty to conspiracy to commit a different crime. In 2007, he received the maximum 5 years. His wife Elsa got 3 years because, for some reason, she didn't tell on her husband. Like Duran, the Alvarez trial went down in the Florida Southern District Court.

Larry Franklin got 13 years for his role in the AIPAC espionage scandal. True, this one isn't a § 951 case - it's much worse, involving top secret information, nuclear weapons, and war. But the 2 AIPAC officials that were indicted almost 5 years ago are still awaiting trial and are claiming First Amendment protection for their activities. That one should have an impact on all § 951 cases.

It's kind of hard to know what to make of Franklin Duran. He's a multimillionaire who was close to officials in the Venezuelan government due to convenience, not ideology. But you have to respect he and his lawyers' cojones for standing up to the bullshit charges when the others folded. Any time he spends in jail due to some's desire to settle foreign policy scores is a crime in itself; hopefully, the judge will not aggravate it. If he gets anything higher than 5 years, it would seem disproportionate compared to other § 951 sentences, but you just never know in Miami. And an appeal from the conviction is still supposedly in the pipelines. Stay tuned.

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Comments (1)

Frankie-poo has lost the Bunny Image.

Awww. So sad.

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