Inner City Press

In Other Media-eg New Statesman, AJE, FP, Georgia, NYTAzerbaijan, CSM Click here to contact us     .

These reports are usually available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis

Share |   

Follow on TWITTER

Home -

These reports are usually available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis


(FP Twitterati 100, 2013)

ICP on YouTube

More: InnerCityPro
Sept 24, 2013

UN: Sri Lanka


FOIA Finds  

Google, Asked at UN About Censorship, Moved to Censor the Questioner, Sources Say, Blaming UN - Update - Editorial

Support this work by buying this book

Click on cover for secure site orders

also includes "Toxic Credit in the Global Inner City"




Bank Beat

Freedom of Information

How to Contact Us

Honduras JOH Brother Tony Gets Life Plus 30 Years As SDNY Judge Says Help Country

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.

  On March 16, JOH's brother Tony Hernandez was belatedly up for sentencing before U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York Judge P. Kevin Castel, who oversaw his trial leading to guilty verdicts in October 2019. Judge Castel sentenced him to life plus thirty years and said in prison he should reflect on how to help his family "and [his] country" - perhaps a reference to telling the US government and then juries what else he knows. Inner City Press live tweeted it, here:

Judge Castel: I have reviewed letters from the defendant's family, friends, and others.

Defense lawyer: Mr. Hernandez wants the Court to know that he is not prepared to go forward today. Judge Castel: The jury convicted him in October 2019. It has been delayed.

Judge Castel: The time has come for the defendant to be sentenced. He has had in hand the pre-sentence report since February 12, 2020 - over a year ago, and before the shut down of the pandemic. I am not inclined to adjourn the sentencing further.

 Defense lawyer: Certain members of the prosecution here had concerned raised about the conduct in another case [That is the US v. Nejad case - which Inner City Press has also covered]

Defense: There may be more Brady material that might prove him innocent Defense: We cannot go into the government's files to look for things. But they may exist. Mr. Hernandez says he is not satisfied with our representation.

 Judge Castel: I read the Brady [5f] order, I am aware of the case before Judge Nathan [US v. Nejad]

Judge Castel: The jury returned its verdict.  The time has come to pass sentence. After that is done, Mr. Hernandez is free to appeal to the 2d Circuit. Tony H: Me permite la palabra por favor-- Judge Castel: When I call on you. Understood?

Judge Castel: The defendant says he objects to portions of the pre-sentencing report. Are these because he still claims he is innocent? Defense: Primarily yes. But on Paragraph 71, there is an aggravated role enhancement. Judge Castel: We'll get to that.

 After a break, Judge Castel asks, Any objection to Paragraph 27? Defense: Just a general objection. Judge Castel: Does the government want to speak on abuse of trust? AUSA: Rely on our papers. Judge Castel: The defendant abused a position of public trust.

Judge Castel: The defendant was elected as a deputy congressperson, then an a congressperson in his own right in 2014. Having that position gave him greater conference, and those who dealt with him in the drug trafficking business, that he would not be extradited

Judge Castel: He met with DEA agents in 2016, confident in his own mind that the DEA wouldn't dare touch an elected Congressman. He met with Rivera to talk about rerouting government payments to other Cachiro front companies - he use the government

 Judge Castel: The defendant is at offense level 43... I was here for the trial, I heard the evidence and saw the exhibits. Now I'll hear from the defense, then Mr. Hernandez himself.

 Defense lawyer Brill: The US government has determined that enforcement of US drugs laws against citizens of other countries is in our interest. The position is tenuous. We are suggesting a public policy objection to this type of prosecution, of policing the world

Defense lawyer: It's the citizens of our country who have a voracious hunger for drugs. My client is from a large family, who probably won't see him again. He will never have the life that he once had.

Defense lawyer: He will no doubt appeal his conviction. There is little difference between a sentence of 40 years and of life. He is unlikely to live to 82 or so. With good time it would be 75. He would be an old sick and broken man. I ask for 40 years.

Judge Castel: Juan Antonio H., this is your time to speak. Tony H: Did you get the two letter I sent a week and a half ago? Judge Castel: I have a letter we received March 21. Tony H: I am not satisfied with Mr. Brill. He only visited me two times.

 Tony H: And only six calls, including the one yesterday. I started sending letters, for the problem of the Juez Nathan, you put an order on material Brady. [Note: The Due Process Protection Procedures Act does beyond Judge Nathan's US v. Nejad case]

 Tony H: Today is the first time that I am discussing with my lawyers the Brady material issues. My letter was to ask, what probably did the avogado Brill have with attending to my case?

Tony H: He told me, in 15 days, you will have an answer. But in the news I heard, that is the day of my sentencing. The government has been pushing to have my sentencing fast. [Note: It has been delayed many times.]

Note: the docket, unlike an hour ago as the proceeding began, now has notations of five "SEALED DOCUMENT placed in vault" - presumably including Tony H's letters

 Tony H: I am a lawyer too, and I know about Rule 5f of the US rule. My avogado Brill, he was interested in three of the five points I made to him. I thought I would get my information in 15 days. My surprise, I learned from a media I would be sentenced the 30th

Tony H: The second letter, I already felt betrayed by this country, the violation of my 6th Amendment rights. I wrote to request another change of lawyer. Me siento enganado.

Tony H: I thought he was reviewing the notes of the trial, the names that were mentioned, it is very interesting. It is difficult to be counting on a lawyer, I don't know what other commitments he has, effecting my next 40 years.

 Tony H: He said, I am a person not well liked in the social networks. He left the letters of my relatives in the public, when they could have been sealed. His intention, I don't know. In my country... you should respect privacy more.

Judge Castel: When did you make your Brady request? Tony H: The 11th day of November. Judge Castel: To your attorney? Tony H: Correcto.  Judge Castel: Are you finished tell me what you want me to consider in connection with your sentencing? Tony H: Yes.

Judge Castel: I wrote this down, that I issued order because of what happened in Judge Nathan's chambers. That's not true. Those are not the facts. That's not what happened. Rule 5f was amended by a statute.

Judge Castel: In your case, I have seen nothing, nothing at all, that would reflect a violation of Brady or Giglio rights. There was Mr Renteria, and the others, they have come up with no evidence of a Brady violation.

 Judge Castel: Generally we try to do sentencing within six weeks of the verdict. In your case, I was asked to postpone so it could take place in a courtroom. I understand that. This is now a year & five months after the verdict. This is rare. I have never seen it

 Judge Castel: Then I postponed the sentencing so it wouldn't happen during the trial [of Geovanny Fuentes]. I got the letters, I read them all. They are on the public docket. This is how the procedure goes.

Assistant US Attorney: The defendant's statements are stunning. He spent his time complaining about his lawyers, not on contrition. He is a central figure in one of the most violent drug conspiracies in the world, in a narco-state.

 AUSA: He conspired with his brother, president of Honduras. He caused brutal acts of violence. He funneled drug money into National Party campaigns in exchange to promises of protection to drug traffickers. 185,000 kilos - this is state sponsored drug trafficking

AUSA: A life sentence is appropriate in this case. The crime involved military grade weapons. What sets it apart is the depth of corruption. He paid politicians like his brother, money from people like Chapo Guzman, the head of the Sinaloa cartel.

AUSA: As a result, Honduras is one of the most violent places on earth. San Pedro Sula was the deadliest place on earth; the defendant contributed. Nothing mitigates this. He lied, he obstructed justice. In 2016, he brazenly flew to the US on a private jet...

 AUSA: In 2016 he denied he knew Leonel Rivera - despite being on video with him. He can't say he was poor, he came from a well off family. The letters praise his father. He didn't need do this - he was greedy.

 AUSA: A life sentence would send a message that the US justice system will not accept this conduct. It will resonate with those still in power in Honduras. Post trial violence happened almost immediately. The drug ledger led to a murder in 8 days.

AUSA: That murder, before it there were visits be Chase Lalani an investigator, and a relative of the defendant who wrote a letter for him. Extradition requests have been sent, but they have not been honored. He is a uniquely bad character. AUSA: Cocaine trafficking has consequence that cannot be tolerated. We ask for life.

Judge Castel: I've considered all the materials. A 12 person jury found him to be part of a conspiracy to import drugs into the US, and of machine guns in connection therewith.

Judge Castel: The jury heard from Ardon, and Leonel Rivera, and Geovanny Rodriguez and el Rojo, a confederate in drug trafficking. There was physical evidence. Often I have cases where grams of drugs lead to long sentences. Or Colombian young men on Go-Fast boats

Judge Castel: And then there is Tony Hernandez. He is 41, reasonably fit. He makes an excellent appearance, from the photos are trial. He's well educated, in a military boarding school. He is a lawyer. His family has a hotel and a pharmacy.

 Judge Castel: But Tony Hernandez went in another direction. Here, the trafficking was indeed state sponsored. He had his own brand, imprinted with the initials T.H. for Tony Hernandez. He is responsible for murders, with Tigre Bonilla. He killed Chino...

Judge Castel: It was Tony Hernandez who decided to have him killed, and he expressed happiness at it. He rented helicopters, with weapons, with the markings of the Honduran military. He bribed his brother, Juan Orlando Hernandez, and twice met El Chapo

Judge Castel: El Chapo gave money to the campaign of Juan Orlando Hernandez. Tony tipped off other traffickers to government raids, selling radar info for $50,000. He is responsible for 185,000 kilograms of cocaine. 8000 doses per kilo: 1.5 billion doses

 Judge Castel: All of this is reliably valued at $138.5 million. This man is at the highest amount you can have for cocaine: more than 450 kilos. He is responsible for 185,000 kilos. He faces 40 year minimum.

 Judge Castel: Often I find mitigating circumstances. But based on Tony Hernandez' free choice to engage in drug trafficking, a sentence of life imprisonment is richly imprisoned. So, it is life with 30 more years consecutive.

Judge Castel: Any objections? Defense: No legal objections. 

AUSA: No objections.

Judge Castel: Juan Antonio Hernandez Alvarado, you are remanded to be imprisoned for life on Count 1... & 30 years on Count 2, consecutive. Forfeiture of $138.5 million. No fine.

Judge Castel: You have the right to appeal, including as a poor person. I hope that while you are in person you will reflect on your life and what you've done and turn your life around. Perhaps you can do some good for your family and your country.

 Defense lawyer Brill: I will file a notice of appeal, and then be relieved. Judge Castel: We are adjourned.

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).


Your support means a lot. As little as $5 a month helps keep us going and grants you access to exclusive bonus material on our Patreon page. Click here to become a patron.

Feedback: Editorial [at]
SDNY Press Room 480, front cubicle
500 Pearl Street, NY NY 10007 USA

Mail: Box 20047, Dag Hammarskjold Station NY NY 10017

Reporter's mobile (and weekends): 718-716-3540

Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

 Copyright 2006-2021 Inner City Press, Inc. To request reprint or other permission, e-contact Editorial [at]