The government has won convictions of four Puerto Rican nationalists in a $7.1 million heist. But the militants' supporters claimed victory, saying the trial will help the island gain independence.
The four have maintained that the trial stemming from one of the country's biggest cash heists was politically motivated. They and their lawyers vowed to appeal Monday's verdicts.Carlos Ayes Suarez, who was acquitted, said prosecutors had sought to "criminalize the pro-independence movement in our country."
But U.S. Attorney Stanley A. Twardy Jr. said the government was vindicated: "The defense put the system on trial, and after nine days the jury came back with a verdict that was well reasoned and proved that the system work."
The government said the five defendants participated in the Sept. 12, 1983, robbery at the Wells Fargo depot in West Hartford to raise funds to finance terrorist acts for Los Macheteros, a violent group seeking Puerto Rican independence.
Key defendant Juan Segarra Palmer III was convicted of robbery, conspiracy and transportation of stolen money but acquitted on four weapons-related charges.
Segarra's bond was revoked, and he was led from the federal courtroom by marshals as his supporters sang about revolution to the tune of the Puerto Rican national anthem.
The 39-year-old Harvard graduate faces up to 165 years in prison.
Antonio Camacho Negron, 45, a car mechanic, and Roberto Maldonado Rivera, 53, an attorney, were convicted of conspiracy and transporting stolen money from Connecticut to Mexico. Camacho faces up to 15 years in prison and Maldonado face up to five years.
Norman Ramirez Talavera, 32, an artist, was convicted of conspiracy and faces up to five years in prison.
No sentencing date was set.
Judge T. Emmet Clarie also revoked the bond of Camacho. After the verdicts were read, Camacho raised a clenched fist and yelled in Spanish, "The imperial power is showing how small it is."
Ayes, a 29-year-old anthropology student, was acquitted of conspiracy.
The 51/2-month trial had been delayed by marathon hearings on the admissibility of FBI tape recordings and other evidence, which in turn triggered a debate over record pretrial detentions of some defendants.