Last week Frank Duran, the center of the trumped-up Valijagate escandalo, was sentenced in the Florida Southern District Court to 4 years in prison.
The prosecution and the judge both acknowledged that he did not commit espionage or otherwise threaten any U.S. interests. Instead Judge Joan Lenard stated Duran was being sent to prison because "[t]he respect of the sovereignty of the United States is paramount," which is pretty ironic from a Latin America perspective.
According to the Spanish-language press, Duran's family and friends "erupted in shouts and hugs of joy" when the sentence came down. The prosecution had asked for 13 years, but lead DOJ attorney Tom Mulvihill later said that the 4 year sentence was "just and exemplary." And looking back at the sentences of the 3 defendants who plead guilty and cooperated with U.S. authorities, it's actually surprising that Duran didn't get more time for fighting the charges.
So what gives? Did the DOJ and the judge feel badly for upending Duran's life on a never-been-used-like-this statute and a politically motivated trial? Or did Duran give up dirt - real or invented - on his ties to the Venezuelan government since the verdict? Probably the latter.
According to one blogger, Duran negotiated a reduction in his sentence by dishing on the business dealings of ex Vice-President Jorge Rodriguez. Apparently Rodriguez has something to do with Smartmatic, the company that operates many of the voting machines in Venezuela - and the US.
So keep your eyes open for the soon-to-be-released FBI evidence that Hugo Chavez rigged the elections for Obama, making Maria Telpuk the most important force of the 21st century thus far. Awesome.