3 accused of smuggling to get lawyers

July 13, 2006

Miami Herald- Cammy Clark

KEY WEST - The three men suspected of trying to smuggle 31 Cuban migrants into the United States on Saturday in an incident that resulted in the death of a 24-year-old Cuban woman will appear in federal court today at a hearing to determine whether they have legal counsel.

Rolando GonzalezDelgado, Heinrich Castillo-Diaz and Yamil Gonzalez-Rodriguez all said through translators at Monday's initial hearing that they planned to retain private lawyers. If they have not done so by today, Magistrate Judge Lurana S. Snow said she will appoint counsel.


Because the men had no representation at Monday's hearing, William Barzee, assistant federal public defender, acted 'as a friend of the court' and urged Judge Snow to issue an order requiring that the 29 undocumented aliens -- being held on a Coast Guard cutter at sea -- not be repatriated until defense counsel had the opportunity to interview them as material witnesses.

Barzee said it would be virtually impossible to depose or interview a witness returned to Cuba.

The prosecution argued at Monday's hearing that Snow did not have the jurisdiction.


The magistrate judge entered the order nonetheless, saying: ``Fundamental fairness dictates that counsel for the defendants have the opportunity to interview the aliens prior to their repatriation.'

The defendants are facing charges that could bring the death penalty. The criminal complaint alleges that they conspired to induce aliens to come illegally to the United States, which resulted in a death.

If the men have counsel today, a pre-trial detention hearing will be held Friday. If not, the hearing will be delayed until next week.

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