The Miami Herald
Aug. 26, 2002

Cuban ordered to New Orleans in 1980 Havana hijacking

  By The Associated Press

  MIAMI - A Cuban was ordered Monday to be sent to New Orleans for trial on charges that he and his brother hijacked a Delta Air Lines flight to Havana
  22 years ago.

  U.S. Magistrate Judge John O'Sullivan also ordered Miguel Angel Aguilar Rodriguez to be jailed until trial as a risk of flight and danger to the community.

  ''By his own actions, he's shown if he wants to get someplace, he'll get there,'' the judge said in rejecting a bail request. Air piracy and kidnap charges in
  the 1980 hijacking indictment carry a possible life sentence.

  An FBI agent testified that fingerprints match immigration records from Aguilar's arrival in Key West during the 1980 Mariel boatlift and prints taken two
  years ago at a Brownsville, Texas, border crossing.

  Aguilar's attorney questioned the reliability of the fingerprint evidence because his prints at one point were matched to a Mexican national arrested for
  drunken driving in California in 1980.

  Fingerprints taken after his arrest Aug. 15 haven't been compared yet to those taken from the Delta jet, a Delta brochure and a vehicle abandoned in
  New Orleans because of a lack of time, said FBI agent Alexis Vazquez.

  But O'Sullivan said he was satisfied that prints in immigration files meant the 55-year-old man in court was the hijacking suspect.

  Vazquez also said Aguilar strongly resembles an old photo picked out by the pilot and two flight attendants as one of the hijackers.

  ''It looks very close to him,'' Vazquez testified as Aguilar stood before him. ``He's got a scar on his face that is prominent.''

  Cuba sentenced Aguilar to four years in prison for the hijacking. The FBI says he has been living with his daughter in Miami since he returned to the
  United States in 2000.

  The FBI has been told that his brother and accused fellow hijacker Roberto Teodoro Rodriguez died in Cuba, but that has not been confirmed.

  The brothers initially went to an Eastern Air Lines ticket counter at a New Orleans hotel but were referred to Delta, said prosecutor Joseph Capone.

  They bought one-way tickets on a flight to Miami via Atlanta but ended up on another one carrying 81 passengers on Sept. 13, 1980. That was four
  months after Aguilar's initial arrival in the United States.

  The hijackers, seated near the rear of the plane, stood up 10 minutes into the flight yelling ''Cuba, Cuba,'' and threatened to use cigarette lighters to set
  fire to two plastic bottles containing a clear liquid.

  The pilot flew to Havana, and the hijackers were removed from the jet. The flight left Havana after about two hours, long enough for the Cuban
  government to distribute free bottles of rum to passengers.

  It was one of a series of hijackings that followed the boatlift as homesick Cubans returned to the island.

  Aguilar could potentially face new charges. Capone said he entered the United States via Texas with false identification papers, had a false Florida
  driver's license and lied on immigration forms about having a criminal record and entering the United States before.

  Aguilar also lied on an application for permanent residency in February and provided a false name, false Cuban birth certificate and passport, falsified
  Social Security card and false employment authorization card, Capone said.

  Aguilar was arrested on a tip after the hijacking was profiled on a TV crime show.