The Miami Herald
Wed, Nov. 29, 2006

Cuban exile's lawyers seek secret files

Defense lawyers for a Cuban exile charged with housing an arms cache want security clearance so they can determine their client's relationship with local and federal authorities.

El Nuevo Herald

The attorneys for Cuban American Robert Ferro -- arrested in California for possession of an arsenal of weapons and ammunition -- have asked the government to turn over documents regarding the prisoner's links with federal agencies, which, they say, spanned years.

''We have submitted a request asking that the government make available to us the files on my client's relationship with police and U.S. intelligence agencies,'' lawyer Arturo Hernandez said Monday in Miami. ``We are making a wide-ranging petition, so the court may order the release of classified information.''

The defense strategy aims to buttress the defendant's statements during the initial interrogations in April and in documents submitted later to the court, in which Ferro claims the weapons were given to him by U.S. agents.

The move to obtain classified information has forced the court to postpone Ferro's trial until April. His lawyers say they need time to obtain the security clearance that will allow them to review confidential documents.

Ferro, 62, remains jailed without bond at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles. A hearing is set for Dec. 4, where his lawyers will ask for his release on bond.

''He is very sick, with severe diabetes, and we're asking for release on bail and house arrest, which would allow him to be looked after by his private doctor,'' the lawyer said.

The arsenal -- 1,571 firearms, grenades and ammunition found in his home in Upland, Calif. -- is the largest cache of weapons in a private home ever found by the FBI.

At the time, Ferro claimed he was a member of Alpha 66 and that the Miami-based organization paid for part of the arsenal to be used against the regime of Fidel Castro. Alpha 66 leaders say Ferro is not a member and rejected his claims.

Assistant U.S. attorney Dennise D. Willett was unavailable for comment.

Meanwhile, federal Judge Virginia A. Phillips has denied all defense motions. In late September, she rejected a defense bid to suppress evidence found by police during the raid of Ferro's house.

Following the ruling, Ferro released an ''open letter to the Cuban community and Latinos in general'' blasting the judge.

''With this judge I have no chance to obtain my freedom,'' he wrote. ``My only crime is to have weapons to fight terrorist Castro; and I believe that is a noble thing to do in defense of freedom, not only for Cuba but also for the U.S.A. because I would have eliminated a threat to our National Security.''

In the letter, Ferro criticizes the silence of the Cuban Americans in Congress and President Bush regarding his case.

Hernandez declined to comment on the letter.

Ferro, a Vietnam veteran and a former U.S. Army Special Forces officer, claims to be a great-grandson of Cuban hero Vicente Garcia, a general in Cuba's war of independence against Spain.

Police records show that in 1992 Ferro was sentenced to two years in a California prison for possession of explosives.