FALN Leader and Four Others Convicted For Failed Prison Escape
CHICAGO (AP) _ The leader of FALN, the Puerto Rican independence group, and three sympathizers have been found guilty of plotting to spring him from a federal prison in Kansas by using explosives and a helicopter.
The jury returned the verdicts against Oscar Lopez-Rivera and three others Thursday after 15 hours of deliberations that followed a 10-week trial before U.S. District Judge William Hart, who set sentencing for Feb. 26.
Immediately after the verdicts were read, the packed courtroom erupted in shouting. FALN supporters sang in Spanish and some waved fists in the air.
FALN, which is a Spanish acronym for Armed Forces for National Liberation, seeks independence and a socialist government for the island commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The group has been linked to more than 100 bombings or planned bombings since 1974 in Chicago, New York and elsewhere. Authorities say at least six people have died and 100 more have been injured in FALN violence in the United States.
Prosecutors said the four FALN members planned to use rockets, hand grenades and a helicopter in 1986 to free Lopez from the federal prison at Leavenworth, Kan., where he had been serving a 55-year sentence for a 1981 conviction on seditious conspiracy charges.
Besides Lopez, others convicted on conspiracy charges were Doris Garcia, the FALN leader’s former sister-in law; Jaime Delgado, a counselor at Northeastern University; and Grailing Brown, a federal prisoner serving a sentence for murder.
Lopez was convicted on five of eight counts of conspiracy; Brown, one count; Ms. Garcia three of six counts and Delgado three counts.
Lopez faces a maximum of 25 years in prison, Ms. Garcia and Delgado 15 years each and Brown faces five years, said Jan Susler, an attorney for Lopez.
″If there was ever a crime showing total disregard for human life, your honor, this is it,″ Assistant U.S. Attorney Deborah Devaney said after the verdicts were read.
Ms. Susler said all the defendants plan to appeal except Lopez, who doesn’t recognize the federal government’s right to prosecute him.
″The way this case was done was down and dirty,″ she said. ″The government, through their informants, agents provocateurs and undercover FBI agents, spent millions trying to create a conspiracy to get these defendants.″
Evidence at the trial indicated the FBI had infiltrated the plot almost from the beginning.
Lopez later was transferred to the U.S. Penitentiary at Marion, Ill.