By Curt Anderson
The Associated Press
Posted September 28 2005, 6:02 PM EDT
MIAMI—Federal prosecutors asked the full 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider the case of five suspected Cuban spies whose convictions and sentences were tossed out last month by a three-judge panel of the court.
U.S. Attorney R. Alexander Acosta said in a statement Wednesday that the three-judge panel’s decision runs counter to previous U.S. Supreme Court decisions in similar cases, although he did not elaborate.
``Consideration by the full court is necessary to secure and maintain uniformity of decisions in the 11th Circuit’’ with the nation’s highest court, Acosta said.
The petition asks for rehearing by all 12 active members of the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit, which considers federal appeals in cases from Florida, Alabama and Georgia. The case could possibly reach the Supreme Court.
Circuit Judges Stanley F. Birch Jr., Phyllis A. Kravitch and James L. Oakes ruled Aug. 9 that the convictions and sentences of the Cubans were invalid because of extensive pretrial publicity, community prejudice in Miami and inflammatory remarks by prosecutors. The judges ordered that a new trial be held outside Miami.
The five were convicted in June 2001 of illegally serving as agents of a foreign government as part of the so-called Wasp Network. The ringleader, Gerardo Hernandez, and two others were also convicted of espionage conspiracy, and Hernandez was convicted of murder conspiracy for his role in the deaths of four Cuban exiles shot down by Cuban MiGs in 1996.
All of those convictions were overturned by the three-judge panel. The Cubans’ attorneys and supporters did not immediately return telephone calls seeking comment Wednesday on the prosecutors’ latest action.
The five acknowledged being Cuban agents but said they were spying on exile groups opposed to Cuban President Fidel Castro, not the United States. Cuba has made them national heros, with Castro predicting the case will end in victory.
The five Cubans have remained in federal prison pending outcome of the appeals. Three received life sentences, one got 19 years and one got 15 years.