Ex-Puerto Rican House Speaker Convicted
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) _ A federal jury has convicted a former speaker of Puerto Rico’s House of Representatives for corruption stemming from the sale of a public hospital.
Edison Misla Aldarondo of the New Progressive Party was found guilty on Friday of extortion, money laundering and obstruction of justice.
The jury concluded that Misla, 60, received a share of $258,000 paid to officials in the U.S. territory to smooth the way for the 1997 sale of a government hospital to three doctors.
``The message it sends is that public corruption won’t be tolerated,″ U.S. Attorney Humbert Garcia said.
The verdict came shortly after a former deputy chief of staff to ex-Gov. Pedro Rossello was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment in a separate case Friday.
Angel Luis Ocasio Ramos, who served under Rossello in the mid-1990s, had pleaded guilty to offering $6,000 in monthly bribes after leaving office in exchange for government contracts. Ocasio also is to pay a fine of $40,000.
His sentence is to be served concurrently with another handed down in November on charges of conspiring to commit extortion. Ocasio told the court he was ``profoundly sorry″ for his acts.
Rossello, who led an unsuccessful campaign to make Puerto Rico the 51st state, has denied involvement.
Misla, meanwhile, was expected to be sentenced next week.
Misla’s son, Yamil Misla, said he remains convinced his father is innocent. ``Today wasn’t a victory against corruption,″ he said, accusing the island’s government _ which supports the current commonwealth status _ of selectively prosecuting supporters of U.S. statehood.
Once the guilty verdicts were announced, Misla and his sister Migdalia, a Presbyterian minister, lowered their heads in apparent prayer until the reading of charges concluded.
Before being handcuffed and led out of the courtroom, Misla said to the bailiffs, ``Let me kiss my son.″ He gave his son Yamil a hug.
Misla is also facing unrelated charges in a San Juan court for allegedly raping a 17-year-old girl.