The Miami Herald
Sep. 20, 2003

Cuban hijacker sentenced

Freedom is fleeting for man who stole a plane in order to come to the United States. He will spend 20 years in prison.


  An architect who refused to believe U.S. and Cuban officials when they said he would face serious consequences if he hijacked a commercial plane to Key
  West will have 20 years to ponder his miscalculation.

  Adermis Wilson González, who hijacked a Cuban Airlines plane with two ceramic casts hand-painted to resemble grenades, was sentenced Friday by U.S.
  District Judge Shelby C. Highsmith to the minimum mandatory prison term for air piracy.

  The judge recommended that Wilson, 34, be allowed to stay in the United States after his release from prison rather than face automatic deportation.


  Wilson denounced Cuban President Fidel Castro, invoked the memory of Elián González's drowned mother and praised the American freedom that he won't
  experience for two more decades.

  ''I am very happy to be here in the United States, far away from the clutches of the tyrant Castro,'' Wilson told the judge through a Spanish translator. ``I
  know that God is on my side today, that God is looking at the freedom my wife and child are enjoying.''

  Wilson's 19-year-old wife and 3-year-old son were among 51 people on board when he seized control of the AN-24 as it flew from the Isle of Youth to

  Twenty-one passengers were released in Havana and 31 others made the impromptu final leg to Key West under naval jet escort. During the 15-hour
  layover in Havana, Cuban and U.S. officials unsuccessfully warned Wilson about the penalties for air piracy.

  Wilson was barred from telling American jurors that he feared execution if he surrendered control to Cuban agents in Havana. The Key West jury
  deliberated an hour before finding him guilty. Defense attorney Stewart Abrams plans an appeal.


  The April 1 hijacking came at a tense time in U.S.-Cuban relations. Six Cuban men are facing trial in December for taking another plane in March. The day
  after Wilson's hijacking, a group of men tried to commandeer a passenger ferry to the United States. Cuba quickly tried and executed three of the ferry