USA Today
May 4, 1999
Witness: Defector just walked out

                   By Mike Dodd, USA TODAY

                   The former Cuban pitcher who defected after Monday's exhibition game in
                   Baltimore apparently just walked away from the team hotel with an
                   American attorney, according to a Virginia couple who said they
                   befriended him.

                   Rigoberto Herrera Betancourt walked into a Baltimore police station alone
                   at 10 a.m. Tuesday to request asylum. He apparently slipped away from
                   Cuban authorities about 6½ hours earlier as the delegation prepared to
                   board buses for Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

                   Jerry Horton and Deanna Weaver of Fairfax Station, Va., said they
                   befriended Herrera Betancourt and a few other former players in the
                   Cuban delegation before the game at the Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel in
                   downtown Baltimore. Horton took a few pictures, including one of Herrera
                   Betancourt in which his name is clearly visible on an official Orioles game

                   After the game, the couple said they returned to the hotel and met the
                   Cubans again in the lounge. Seated at their table was an American man in
                   his mid-30s in a suit and tie, making several calls on his cell phone, they
                   said. He introduced himself and said he was an attorney, but the couple
                   doesn't remember his name.

                   "He was running back and forth, leaving our table, then coming back," said
                   Weaver, a high school guidance director.

                   About 3 a.m., there was a commotion as the delegation was told they were
                   leaving. "Everybody seemed to be taken by surprise. They looked
                   confused," said Horton, who owns a music store in Alexandria, Va.

                   After a few minutes, Weaver said she noticed one of the former players
                   had left an umbrella and jacket in the lounge. She said she went into the
                   lobby and spotted Herrera Betancourt by the front door with the attorney.
                   The Cuban stepped outside and she gave him the jacket to give to the
                   player who left it.

                   At that point, there was no Cuban security outside, Weaver said.

                   "The buses were right in front (of the entrance). They started to walk to the
                   left, down the sidewalk," she said. "We figured that's when he

                   Herrera Betancourt is in custody of the U.S. Immigration and
                   Naturalization Service while his asylum request is being processed. The
                   INS doesn't confirm or deny any individual's request for asylum, nor reveal

                   Rep. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said the INS told him it would have a
                   decision very soon. He said he expects the request for asylum to be

                   No one has come forward to acknowledge helping Herrera Betancourt
                   defect and the Cuban American National Foundation in Miami has no
                   details of the incident. A spokesperson for the foundation said it received
                   unconfirmed reports Herrera Betancourt has a relative living in south

                   Horton and Weaver said their Cuban friends gave them autographs and
                   few of the small flags they waved during the game. The future defector
                   signed a cap "R. Betancourt," they said.

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