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.
BY LARRY LEBOWITZ
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.
`HAPPY TO BE HERE'
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
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
Twenty-one passengers were released in Havana and 31 others made
the impromptu final leg to Key West under naval jet escort. During the
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
deliberated an hour before finding him guilty. Defense attorney Stewart Abrams plans an appeal.
TIMING OF SEIZURE
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