BY CAROL ROSENBERG
The Cuban prisoner whose Miami mother mediated a peaceful end
to last month's
uprising at the St. Martin Parish Jail in Louisiana was sentenced Thursday to
serve 55 years in another Louisiana parish jail.
Roberto Villar Grana, 31, was already aboard a Cuba-bound U.S.
jet Dec. 20 under the agreement that ended the six-day standoff when he was
removed by federal marshals and turned over to local Louisiana authorities.
Thursday, Judge H. Ward Fontenot of the 38th Judicial Court in
sentenced Villar Grana to 40 years in jail for attempted murder of a police officer
and 15 years for cocaine possession. Jailer Warner Daigle said by phone that the
judge had ordered that sentences be served consecutively, for a total of 55 years.
The sentences were in connection with a January 1999 conviction
high-speed car chase near the Texas border. After Villar Grana was apprehended,
deputies allegedly found several grams of cocaine in his car.
Villar Grana still faces trial in St. Martin Parish for aggravated
kidnapping in the
jail revolt. Several Cubans and a Bahamian prisoner used homemade knives to
take the warden and other deputies hostage.
All of the Cubans except Villar Grana had served their prison
sentences and were
being indefinitely warehoused in Louisiana by the immigration service because
Cuba generally does not take back deportees.
Havana agreed to the unusual request to take them back to end
the standoff in
secret contacts between diplomats. The six who were returned were last seen
shackled in the custody of Cuban officers in Havana. It is unknown what became
At the end of the uprising, St. Martin Parish Sheriff Charles
Fuselier credited Villar
Grana's mother, Mercedes Villar, 53, of Miami, as ``instrumental'' in persuading
the prisoners to accept an offer of safe-passage to Cuba in exchange for ending
Mrs. Villar arrived from Miami just hours before the hostage drama
ended -- and
vouched for the veracity of a letter from the Justice Department that pledged safe
passage to Cuba if the prisoners ended their uprising peacefully. It named her son
along with the six other since-returned prisoners.
Mercedes Villar, who immigrated to the U.S. in the Mariel boatlift
citizenship soon after, said Thursday she was still shattered by the experience,
and felt betrayed by her government.
At Christmas she wrote President Clinton, Congress members Ileana
Ros-Lehtinen and Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Attorney General Janet Reno and FBI
officials asking for an explanation.
None had responded.
``Nobody's talking to me,'' the prisoner's mother said by telephone,
sobbing in her
Miami home. ``It's like I disappeared, like I am nothing.''
Copyright 2000 Miami Herald