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Honduras Corrupt Cop & Lawyer Avila Get 144 Months On Eve of Tony Hernandez Sentencing

By Matthew Russell Lee, Patreon Song Filing
BBC - Guardian UK - Honduras - ESPN

SDNY COURTHOUSE, March 29 – Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernandez took a briefcase of cash and said he would stuff drugs up the noses of the gringos, a jury was told on March 16, 2020.  Inner City Press live tweeted it, morning here and then the afternoon, about the video(s), here and below. Geovanny Fuentes was found guilty, and his lawyer told Inner City Press he thinks JOH will be or has already been indicted.

  Now on March 29, the day before JOH's brother Tony's sentencing, Honduras police official and lawyer Juan Manuel Avila Meza came up for sentencing under another docket number, before another SDNY judge: Judge Lorna G. Schofield. He got 144 months. Inner City Press live tweeted it here:

Juan Manuel Avila Meza's lawyer: OK, he showed up at a meeting. But he surrendered voluntarily at the US Embassy.  [Sentencing submission says he joined Los Cachiros in 2004, argues for guideline sentence of 210 to 262 months and $42,000 forfeiture]

Defense: Mr. Avila was never posted to cities through which drugs were moving. He has confessed guilty, but there is duress - not a defense, but relevant. He is trying to do what he can: he went to the DEA and said, I am here.

 Defense lawyer: Mr. Avila, he lived in a poor country, he wanted to make some money. He had a little law office. Now he got COVID. He's over it but he still has difficulties breathing. He's made "cop-outs" (?) for medical treatment.

[Inner City Press: here's the beginning of Avila's sworn statement on assets - full copy now on Patreon here]

 US says Avila in February 2014 "helped set up a meeting between Lionel [Rivera] and Juan Antonio Hernandez... who helped import almost 200,000 kilos of cocaine in the US."

 Defense: He is in good standing with the bar in Honduras. Now Juan Manuel Avila Meza speaks for himself: ..."mi pobre pais, Honduras... mi conduct ha efectado a muchos. Pero hay que considerar COVID." [my poor country, Honduras ... my behavior has affected many. But you have to consider COVID]

 Avila: You have to consider the corruption of Honduras' political leaders, who have fallen into the clutches of international drug traffickers, with terrible consequences for the people of the country... I joined the police to try to help, I began a lawyer

Avila: I was effected by drug trafficking within the highest levels of Honduras' government. Your Honor, even the brother of the president of the country was sentenced by this court [error: that's tomorrow].. he was found guilty

 Avila: It's known that Los Cachiros has made high Honduran government officials tremble, from the MCC and MDC jails in New York... Show me misericordia

 Judge: You pled guilty to this conspiracy, drugs and engaged in violation. It has wrecked havoc with Honduran society.

Judge: You facilitated the conspiracy. I understand that Honduras is a lawless society. The US is not. I will sentence you and provide deterrence. I am considering that you surrendered voluntarily, and that you got COVID in prison.

 Judge  Lorna G. Schofield: I find 210 months, recommended, to be excessive. But your lawyer wants 60 months, which is too law. There's Mr. Lobo, 288 months. Another officer got 168 months.... I have determined for you a sentence of 144 months.

 Judge: Let's have him in a facility not with other members of Los Cachiros, that would help his statement of mind.

This case is USA v. Lobo, et al., 15-cr-174 (Schofield) 

On March 26, Tony Hernandez has countered with a request for the minimum of 40 years, with a submission citing brothers but NOT Juan Orlando Hernandez. The word Orlando does not appear in the filing, on Patreon here

A question still: Does the right to access to Federal court proceedings extend to listen-only telephone lines, in the time of COVID and beyond? Should it?

 The question has been further raised in the ongoing Honduras narco-trafficking case US v. Geovanny Fuentes, which Inner City Press has been covering in-person in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, where it is "in-house press."

   On the morning of March 13, Inner City Press filed a challenge to the cut-off of audio access to the US v. Fuentes trial, citing the First Amendment, COVID and real-world politics, see here and below.

  Late on the evening of March 14, the US Attorney's Office filed a three page letter into the docket, specifically arguing the the call-in line be eliminated for two entire Witnesses and everything they say. US Attorney's Office's letter, now uploaded on Inner City Press' DocumentCloud, here.

 Inner City Press has immediately responded in opposition, here, stating among other things that "the US Attorney's Office seeks to specifically ban public access to two of their Witnesses, while saying that a transcript would be available at some unspecified date afterwards. Given that the Office has yet to unseal improperly redacted portions of their filings, there is little reason to have confidence in the speed of transcription, or that such transcripts would not be too expensive for the public or media. 

Inner City Press after its first filing waited nine hours, including this song, here, to report about it. Full first letter on Inner City Press' DocumentCloud, here.

  Inner City Press itself obeys all existing rules and is grateful for the additional access as in-house media (particularly since it is banned from covering the UN, which now Constitutional rights such as the First Amendment exist).

  But others have rights too - including journalists and regular citizens of Honduras. If the SDNY prosecutors are going to exercises essentially universal jurisdiction for any wire transfer that passes through lower Manhattan, how ever briefly, they should not oppose access to their trials by those impacted, for better and worse.

Judge Castel is a good judge, in Inner City Press' experience. When petitioned he has ordered the unsealing of certain court documents, in a North Korea crypto-currency conference case and the tech / child sex sentencing of Peter Bright former of ArsTechnica, both of which Inner City Press covered and requested. And Judge Castel is certainly in the mainstream in his March 12 psoition. But should it be rethought? Is there a right? Should there be? Watch this site.

The case is US v. Diaz, 15-cr-379 (Castel).


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