When TheMiami Herald reporter Oscar Corral broke the story September 8, 2006 of the Miami journalists on the U.S. government payroll, Wilfredo Cancio Isla was among those 10 reporters exposed. The National Committee to Free the Cuban Five began a broader investigation to uncover the role of the government reporters in convicting the Five.
Among Cancio Isla’s coverage of the Five’s trial is a scandalous article in El Nuevo Herald on June 4, 2001, the day the jury began its deliberations on the question of guilt or innocence.
With the headline, “Cuba used hallucinogens to train its spies,” the article is a complete fabrication. It makes an unsubstantiated claim from an anonymous Cuban spy deserter — with two pseudonyms — that Cuba gives its agents LSD and other hallucinogens before sending them on missions abroad.
Cancio’s intention was to give the “coup de grace” against the Five, just at the moment when the jury was beginning its deliberations.
He links the Five to the outrageous hallucinogens claim, by quoting the same anonymous man:
“At the beginning of this year, motivated by the trial taking place in Miami against five presumed Cuban spies, he [the deserter] decided to break his silence. ... ‘I can assure you that the Wasp Network (broken up in September 1998) is just a part of the espionage work that was conceived to infiltrate the United States on a longUterm basis”.1
Cancio Isla also knowingly and flagrantly violated the Court’s gag order and courtroom instructions which prohibited the media from informing the public about private discussions of the prosecution, the defense and the judge, while the jury was removed from the Courtroom.
On April 19, 2001, in an El Nuevo Herald article headlined, “The prosecution fears Cuban control in spy trial: ‘Cuba is preparing a fabricated version of the facts,’”2 Cancio revealed an “ex parte” private debate between the Government and Defense attorneys, that the jury was not supposed to hear. That discussion included a claim by U.S. prosecutor Caroline HeckUMiller that Cuba is “constructing a fabricated version of the facts.” HeckUMiller was opposing a request by the Defense attorneys for permission to travel to Cuba to obtain more physical evidence related to the BTTR plane shootUdown. This type of unsubstantiated charge was not permitted before a jury. Cancio Isla made certain it made headline news to the Miami community, from which the jury is composed.
Only six days before, April 13, 2001, judge Joan Lenard had warned the media not to make public the conversations between the Government and defense, saying:
“the Court and the parties have an interest in protecting the jury from matters not presented to it in the open courtroom and that is the reason for the gag order that was entered by the Court with respect to discussion of attorneys and the like; ...”3
The objective of the judge’s previous Court order and this particular instruction on April 13 was intended to prevent the unsequestered jury from being influenced.
Cancio Isla violated the judge’s instructions with a story and sensational headline that only days before Judge Lenard explicitly explained should not appear in public. It appeared in El Nuevo Herald, the secondUlargest circulation newspaper in Miami after The Miami Herald.
This deliberate violation of the Court’s order by Cancio Isla is only one example of the attempt by the U.S.Upaid reporters to influence the jury against the Cuban Five.
It must be emphasized that the Defense and Court were completely unaware that reporters employed by the U.S. government produced this “journalism”.
Although Cancio Isla was fired by the Miami Herald for his flagrant violation of journalist ethics because of his government employment, he was soon reUhired along with Pablo Alfonso after the CubanUAmerican rightwing organized a boycott of the newspaper.
- Memorandum in Support of Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Judgment and Sentence of Ramón Labañino under 28 U.S.C. § 2255: http://www.freethefive.org/legalFront/RamonHabeas80811.pdf