[Ppnews] Puerto Rican suspect isolated in jail for safety

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Jul 1 15:51:11 EDT 2011

7/1/2011 2:41 PM
Puerto Rican suspect isolated in jail for safety


A 66-year-old Puerto Rican nationalist who complained to supporters 
about his treatment by "imperialist abusers" as he awaits trial in a 
1983 robbery was held apart from other inmates for several weeks 
because of safety concerns, the U.S. Marshals Service said Friday.

Norberto Gonzalez Claudio, who was captured in May in Puerto Rico, 
was allowed out of his individual cell at the discretion of his 
jailers at the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Rhode Island 
until officials completed a routine assessment of potential risks to 
him and other detainees, said Joseph Faughnan, the U.S. marshal for 

"They don't know who he is, what his connections are," said Faughnan, 
who added that Gonzalez can now mingle more freely with other 
inmates. "We're responsible if somebody kills you."

Gonzalez is accused of aiding the 1983 robbery of $7 million from a 
Wells Fargo armored car depot in West Hartford that was orchestrated 
by Los Macheteros, a group that claimed responsibility for robberies, 
murders and bombings in the 1970s and 80s in the name of Puerto Rican 
independence. The FBI says he still had an active role in the 
militant group when he was found living alone under a false name in 
the central hills of the U.S. Caribbean territory after more than a 
quarter century on the lam.

He pleaded not guilty to federal charges including bank robbery, 
conspiracy and transportation of stolen money at his May 20 
arraignment in U.S. District court in Hartford.

In a jailhouse letter, Gonzalez said he was confined to his cell 
around the clock. When his family visited on Father's Day, he said, 
he could only talk to them over a telephone.

"It clearly shows the insensitivity and indifference of these 
invaders and imperialist abusers," Gonzalez wrote.

He added: "I am strong and full of fight even under these conditions."

The letter was released by a committee in Puerto Rico dedicated to 
supporting Gonzalez and his older brother, Avelino, who pleaded 
guilty last year to his role in the heist after more than two decades 
as a fugitive. Avelino Gonzalez Claudio is serving a seven-year 
sentence at a federal prison in Ashland, Kentucky.

Linda Alonso Lebron, a committee spokeswoman, said Norberto 
Gonzalez's son learned about the change in his father's jail status 
earlier this week. She said supporters are still upset by claims from 
the inmate that jailers have confiscated his pens, food, clothing and 
a blanket and that Gonzalez, who does not speak English, does not 
have enough access to translators. She said the committee made up of 
the inmate's family, lawyers and representatives of other groups will 
meet next week to decide how to proceed with their advocacy of the 
Gonzalez brothers.

"They are freedom fighters for the independence of Puerto Rico," said 
Alonso, who is the niece of Lolita Lebron, an independence activist 
who spent 25 years in prison for participating in a gun attack on the 
U.S. Congress in 1954 and died last summer.

The 1983 heist was the biggest cash robbery in U.S. history at the 
time. It was allegedly carried out by Victor Manuel Gerena, a Wells 
Fargo driver recruited by Los Macheteros, and authorities say other 
members of the group including Norberto Gonzalez helped to smuggle 
the money out of the United States.

Prosecutors have said Los Macheteros, whose name is translated as 
"Machete Wielders" or "Cane Cutters," are suspected of using the 
money to finance bombings and attacks in their push for independence 
for the tropical island.

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