North of Havana: A Lawyer’s Truth featuring Martin Garbus


I’m very pleased to introduce
Martin Garbus to you. Martin Garbus has been a
friend for a long time. He’s a lawyer, who
for me, connects indigenous people, civil
liberties, human rights, and internet. And so the possibility of
having him come and speak to us was, for me, very welcome. Marty has been a trial lawyer
his entire professional life. He’s literally a man who’s
pretty much spent his life in courts and has
been a participant in any number of I’d say
cutting-edge litigations. I think of him as someone who
has been constantly involved in asymmetric
litigation, litigation where there’s a
David on one side and a Goliath on the other. We’ve most recently
been together working on a case involving
the Ecuadorian Amazon and the effort of a
graduate of our school here, 1991, to bring justice to
30,000 Ecuadorian residents of the environment that Texaco,
and subsequently Chevron, have pretty substantially devastated. It is my pleasure to
give you Martin Garbus. It’s a very– let me see. Am I hooked up? OK. It’s a very great
pleasure to be here. It’s a very great pleasure
to be here with Charlie. Many years ago, Charlie
worked on the Ellsberg case, and has through this center. And other things that
he has done in his life made an extraordinary
great commitment. It’s also another
thing, and I’ll say this and I’ll try not to cry to
see my granddaughter here. Charlie covered
a lot of subjects in the discussion about
asymmetrical litigation, about civil rights,
civil liberties. Some of the issues that
have always concerned me are questions of truth. How do you deal with the
truth in a courtroom? Do you not deal with
truth in a courtroom? What is the responsibility of
a lawyer when he’s asked either to present a case or respond
when truth is a response that works badly if you’re
interested also in justice? How do you balance
those two things off? What is your responsibility? What is the lawyer’s
responsibility in dealing with that? How do you shape
truth to help justice? And Charlie used the term
asymmetrical litigation, the question of power,
and the lack of power, and how do you get justice in
a legal system, which really does not have that much of
an extraordinary commitment to justice. But rather has a commitment
to great many values, that being just one of them. Another thing that has
always concerned me is the whole question
of being oblivious where lawyers are oblivious. The way we are all oblivious
to so much that goes on so that we can do our daily life. I’d like to just start
off by reading a poem. I was in Chile many years ago
when Pinochet came into power. And he came into power
September, I think, ’73. And I was there
two months later. I was there on behalf
Amnesty International watching some of the trials. Pinochet putting on
the Allende people. And I went and I saw the trials. And then I came back. And then I met a friend of mine
and we spoke in a parking lot about what I had seen. And she is a well-known
poet, fine poet, and she then wrote
a poem about that. And I just want to
start off with that poem before we get into
the book which deals with all of
these issues, I think truth, justice, what you
see, and what you don’t see. Poet’s name is Sharon Olds. And it deals with the
responsibilities a lawyer has and how you can see things. She says, when we were
standing in the parking lot with a gentle sea
rain falling on us, you told me about your client
who has been tortured in prison in Chile. His forearm cut off, and
you touch your own arm below the elbow where the hair
springs up in the salt air. And the rain stands and find
drops like a spider’s web. It burns in me to
get close to his arm. My lips on the scar at
the end of the stub. My nose near the long wrinkles
of scorch, where the iron has been laid down upon the body. My breast on the
blackened skin as I take it back into the
realm of the human. But of course there’s
nothing I can do. I can’t nurse it or take it’s
reddened head deep into my sex, back into the body. I cannot do anything. All I can do is tell about it. Say, this is the human. The clippers, the
iron, and this is the human, the hand for milk. All I can do is point out the
two paths we go down either. And I have always found
that poem, in extent, I was talking to her. And I never really
saw clearly what I had seen in Chile
until I read her poem, and until she told
me what I told her. So the role of a
lawyer, I think, is to be aware of
what’s going on. And then to try and have
the world in which we live follow the path that Sharon
Olds is talking about. My book, North of Havana,
deals with a trial or a series of trials at
a certain time in America in Miami. And in looking at the trial
and what this book tries to do, successfully or
unsuccessfully, is deal with questions like truth. Deal with questions
like what do we see. Deal with questions of the
law we were all brought up, I was brought up,
Charlie was brought up. To think that we have a
jury system in America that arrives at justice. We are brought up to think that
we have a legal system that is free from politics. I remember a very long
time ago, Ronald Dworkin, a great legal
philosopher at NYU. We were together in
Italy in the year 2000 when Bush against
Gore had come down. And he said for the first time,
he fully understood or embraced the politics that so much
go into the Supreme Court, and the effect of politics, and
the fact that the whole idea of an unbiased judiciary with
a nonsensical term that can be. So I think what this book
deals with is a certain time in American history. It’s the 1990s. It’s the Clinton period. It deals with the trial. It also deals with the
politics of that era because that trial is in a
certain time at a certain place for a certain reason. You were fighting at that
time for the Cuban vote. And [INAUDIBLE] score,
that ultimately comes out. And that vote is fundamentally
American decided. Florida is of course the key. It’s the key today. It’s the key then. It’s the Key tomorrow. The Republicans
have to get Florida. We have seen already what
Trump has done to get Florida and we can talk about that. So you have the
politics of that time, and then you have to
see it in the larger picture of what it leads to. What’s wonderful about
a book in the way? You write a book. And then after you
write the book, you learn more what
you’re writing about. And one of the most
significant things that happen to me in this book– and I’m going to tell you
this story at the beginning rather than the end because
I find it so moving. At this time in America, in the
early 1990s, Clinton was in. Castro was there. They [INAUDIBLE] possibility. Some kind of rapprochement. At least Castro thought so. And Clinton thought so. And one of the keys
to that was how are you going to deal
with that in Miami? How are you going to deal
with that in Florida? So one of the
things that happened is Clinton and
Castro tried to talk through a variety
of communicators. One of them was Garcia Gabriel
Marquez who ultimately comes up to the United States. And he carries a
message to Clinton from Castro saying that
we have to find some way to deal with this, and Clinton
makes a variety of promises. And those promises basically
satisfy Castro for a while. In other words, Clinton
says, we will do something to stop all these provocations
that are going on in Havana. We will try and stop the right
wing, the Bay of Pigs veterans, from going in and blowing
up buildings in Havana. We will try and stop the
killing of Castro loyalists in southern Florida. And Clinton means
it and he says it. And Castro then says, let’s
cooperate, we’ll do it. Then a group comes into
being called the Brothers to the Rescue. And the Brothers to the
Rescue are a right wing group. And what they do is
they have planes. And these planes fly over
Havana violating airspace. And in this particular
instance, in February 24th 1996, three planes go up. Now, though each
of those pilots– Clinton has worked it out
so that their licenses are revoked. Each of those pilots are
not permitted to fly. Each of those pilots
have basically had their planes and everything
taken away from them. The three pilots
get in and they fly as they have flown a
dozen times before. And what they do is
they fly over Cuba. And they beam down. First of all, in some
of their flights, they try to drop bombs. The bombs never
get past the water. They dropped leaflets. Leaflets are dropped
all over Havana. And Basulto, the Brothers
to the Rescue, the pilots, wired down to people in Cuba,
this is the time to revolt. This is the time to
throw Castro over. If we can pierce
his air defenses, you certainly can now rise. Now, as I said,
you’re not allowed to fly over Cuban airspace. These three planes
go up, and they start to fly over Cuban airspace. The American people
on the ground recognize where these
planes are going. The Americans try
and stop the planes. As I said, they’ve already
revoked these pilot’s licenses. They can’t stop the planes. So I’m now reading–
this is a transcript of the pilot of the plane
of one of the planes. Basulto, who went, and he
first wires into Havana. And he says, good
afternoon, Havana center. November 2506 greets you. Please, we are crossing
parallel 24 in five minutes and we will remain in your
area about three to four hours. For your information, Havana
center, our area of operations is north of Havana today. So we will be in your area
and in contact with you. A greeting from the Brothers to
the Rescue and its president, President José Basulto,
who’s speaking to you. Havana replies, and
America is hooked into this entire dialogue. As a matter of fact, the
most accurate rendition of the conversation
comes from the Americans because the Cuban system
is just antiquated. Havana center, OK, received. I inform you that the zone
north of Havana is active. You run danger by penetrating
that side of north parallel 24. Basulto, we are aware
of the danger each time we cross the area south of 24. But we are willing to do it. It is our right as free Cubans. Havana says, we copy. Basulto, cordial greetings. Now remember, they’re over Cuba. They are violating the law. We are continuing our course. A beautiful day. Havana looks great
from where we are. A cordial greeting to
you and to all the people of Cuba on behalf of
Brothers to the Rescue. And then it goes on. And then the brothers
cross the line. They go directly over Havana. 3,000 miles away at March
Air Force Base in California, a United States Customs
detection specialist named Houlihan studied
his radar monitoring and he contacted Washington. And he contacted other
people in Florida. He had tracked the
Brothers’ planes before. And the SAA alerted him
to look out for them. The three planes flashed
like orange Pac-man squares on his screen. Houlihan watched them. Then, three MiGs are
sent up by the Cubans. Basulto sees the Cubans. He can leave the space. He stays in the space. Basulto, they’re
going to shoot at us. At this point, Nick 29,
we have it in sight. We have it in sight. Military control, Cuban military
chief of Havana, go ahead. We’re locked in. Give us the authorization. Authorized to destroy. We copy. We copy. America knows all
about what’s going on. America is unable to
get the planes back. Authorized to destroy. Understood. I [INAUDIBLE] receive. Just leave us alone. Then Nick 29 says,
first shot, we got it. We blew his balls off. Look see where he went down. We hit him, Jesus. We’re on top of him. And then the
conversation goes on. Basulto, who is the lead plane,
then pulls out of the area. The other two planes
with him get shot down. Four people are killed. This happened in
1996, prior to 1996. And by the way, there’s
a movie about this that’ll be coming out
in America in January. It’s called the Wasp Network,
with Penélope Cruz and other people. And what the show is it
talks about a bunch of Cubans who came to America with Castro
and Clinton’s authorization in early 1990 to try and
stop the Bay of Pigs people from having confrontations. And this combined
group of Cuban spies– and I say Cuban spies,
they’re working with the FBI. They were supposed to
totally trust each other. And of course, they had no
trust at all for each other. But what the Cuban
spies did is they stopped some bombings
they stopped boats going with explosives into Cuba. And they saved lives
and they stopped the killing of some
Castro loyalists down in southern Florida. And the shoot-down goes
in February 24th 1996. The Cuban spies
have now been there for four or five years,
working with the government. The right wing gets
outraged justifiably. Four people have been killed. They say Castro
should be indicted. They have to find
people to indict. They can’t find anybody
in the United States because nobody in the United
States, none of these guys, had anything to do
with the shoot-down. So you have a
prosecutor in 1996. The right wing says, you
got to prosecute somebody. You got to prosecute somebody. The US attorney has
nobody to prosecute. There’s a new US attorney. You’ve got to prosecute. You’ve got to prosecute. Nobody to prosecute. Third US attorney,
prosecute, prosecute. Nobody to prosecute. Fourth US attorney, Reagan
appointee, prosecutes. He prosecutes five guys
who I wind up representing. I don’t get in until,
well, after the trial. The guys are tried. They’re convicted in Havana. And this book talks about the
trial of those five people. It talks about the
government’s massive money, the American government’s,
this is long before Trump. Some of us have the illusion
that a lot of bad things are happening now that
have never happened before. You had the extraordinary misuse
of governmental monies coming out of Washington, not
sanctioned by Clinton, but money is coming
out of Washington to influence the press. You had something called Radio
Martí which got $15 million a year. It ran out of Miami. A lot of that $15 million a
year was used against Cuba. Monies were spent by American
dollars in order to commit, let’s say, criminal acts
with respect to Cuba. These five guys
are then indicted. They are indicted
in May of 1999. Bush against Gore is
decided in November. When Bush gets
elected, there are signs on the highways saying– there is also some of
Elian Gonzalez, which is another related story
some of you may remember, where Clinton ordered a young
boy sent back to Havana. And there were signs after Bush
against Gore on the highways, we avenged you,
Elian, we avenged you. And then they gave the
names of the various deaths of the people who
had been killed. So everybody recognized
that the shoot-down, amongst other things, played
a role in Bush against Gore. One of the things I said
before after you do a book, you really start to
learn a little more. I gave a talk not so long ago. And in the room was a woman
who told me that in 2001, she had been invited to Havana. No one knew who
authorized the shoot-down. Was it some guy just
with a quick trigger? The politics of
America dramatically changes, of course,
with Bush again Gore. The politics of America changes
with respect to the Cubans. The extent to which
those politics have changed, how they
affect Trump today, how you look at the Cuban
vote today, a lot of it you can trace back to then. Castro, in 2001, tells
an American group. And the American group is Arthur
Miller, Bill Styron and Rose Styron, and some other people. Now what I’m now telling
you is not in the book because I didn’t know
about it at that time. Because the core of
the open questions was did Castro authorize
the shoot-down? Was it somebody? It was inconceivable that it
didn’t happen just like that. Clearly, my people had
nothing to do with that. Those five defendants,
they were at this level. They couldn’t authorize
anything like that at all. So Castro then tells this
and he did it deliberately. He brought down a
group of Americans of a certain set of politics,
and he exchanges a story which has never been printed before. Rose, the one who told me
the story, Rose Styron, the wife of Bill Styron,
is about to come out with a book talking about it. But I’d never heard
this story before. Castro meets all the
people in the room. He is the host in Havana. It’s a very complicated setup
to get everybody down there. But all the people
come down there, as I said, [INAUDIBLE]
Arthur Miller, Bill Styron. So Castro said– he has a
civil rose suit and a bow tie. And he speaks to
each of the people as they come into the room. When he speaks to
Miller, he will say, oh, I know what you did
in Death of a Salesman in paragraph two,
and such, and such. And he exhibits his knowledge
of all of that stuff. Very impressive. And then in the
middle of the lunch, in the middle of
the dinner rather, he says, Thucydides
said, Greek historian, that every great general
makes at least one mistake. And he says, my mistake was
ordering the shoot-down. And the reason he said
that is because of the way American politics changed in
large part because of that. It may have been
without the shoot-down, Bush again Gore would have
come out very differently, and how that would have affected
the rest of American history. In the book, we go into
the selection of the jury and the difficulties of
trying a jury case in Miami, which is where this trial was. I’ve tried jury cases in
a lot of different places. And I’m experienced in
trying to get a fair jury. Sometimes if you try
jury case, you’ll have a juror on the stand. And the voir dire, you’ll have
it two days or three days. Let’s assume you average
250 to 300 questions a day. So you’re asking a
juror 700 questions. And you’re trying,
by those questions, to find out the person’s biases
so that you can ultimately excuse them from the jury. The case, they’re convicted
in 2001, what the book also talks about and it’s
something that everyone is aware of very much now. But people had not that
been aware of it years ago. I spent a great deal of
time over a period of years, starting and I guess
about 1980, arguing against the Republican
takeover of the judiciary. I wrote dozens of articles
in the 1990s, spoke, et cetera, et cetera. The jurist who was responsible
for the execution– pardon me, for the conviction of these guys
ultimately, Geraldo, my client, gets a double life sentence. Somebody else gets
one life sentence. And the jurist, who
ultimately is responsible, is someone called William Pryor. William Pryor was on
the Kavanaugh shortlist. And he was on the
Gorusch shortlist. This is William Pryor
talking before he gets on the court, of Roe
against Wade, he says, “that that was the worst
abomination in the history of constitutional law. I will never forget
January 22, 1973, the day seven members
of our highest court ripped the Constitution
and ripped the lives out of millions of unborn children.” Second worst decision he says
is Miranda against Arizona. Now, Pryor had been the
attorney general of Alabama. And he went before the
Supreme Court in a case– well, I’ll use the
term hitching post. What Alabama did is they
would take black defendants in the heat of the day
and tie them to a post and make them stand on their
toes basically in the heat. And they would have
a pail of water here. The dogs could come and
use the pails of water. When the dogs were finished
with the pail of water, in Alabama, they would
kick the water can over. And the water would
be at the guy’s feet. So Pryor, who was
a Trump nominee– one of the people
on the as I said Kavanaugh/Gorusch shortlist,
argues that the hitching Post is OK, that the hitching
Post existed at the time that the country
came into being. And as an originalist, we
should look towards that. And he also said,
states should be able to determine for themselves
how you treat prisoners. Pryor lost that case, 9 to
nothing in the Supreme Court. And after he lost that,
he came out and he– this was when he was
attorney general– and he then vilifies
the Supreme Court, saying that, “again,
hitching the post is fine. Based on its own subjective
view and appropriate methods of prison discipline
that the Supreme Court was wrong in doing that.” As I said, my clients
were in jail until 2014. What happened to
them to get them out was basically miraculous. It had nothing to
do fundamentally– fundamentally, there’s
more to be said about it– about the legal services. In 2010, a man named
Alan Gross gets arrested. Gross is working
for USA IT, CIA. He gets convicted in Cuba. Cuba holds another American
intelligence agent. In 2014, Obama and Castro,
Raul Castro, start to talk. And what ultimately happens
in December 14, 2014, there is a exchange
of prisoners. Now, what you all read
about depends how closely you read the papers was the
rapprochement between the two countries, but it
was made possible by this swap of prisoners,
which the discussion had been going on. I’ve been somewhat
involved with it over years to get them released. The book describes–
we hear a good deal about solitary confinement. And we all say, well, solitary
confinement is terrible, guys locked up in
a room, no light. No, no solitary confinement
is far, far worse than that. In other words,
the things that can be done to people in
solitary confinement, these Cubans were in jail– as I said, my guy with 18 years. If you go to jail
for three minutes, you’re going to pick
up an infraction. It’s impossible not to. These five defendants,
not one of them had an infraction
in all the years that they served in the prison. Finally, they get exchanged
back to the United States– pardon me, to Cuba after
lengthy negotiations. And then Anne Peretz
and I go down to Cuba after they’ve been released. By the way, Anne and I had
originally gone to Cuba. And we thought it
was a vacation. And the heads of
the Cuban government started to contact us and
called me and asked me if I would represent these
people after the conviction and, of course,
before the transfer. So we go down. There’s one other story,
which is a very sweet story. Senator Leahy met
Geraldo Hernandez’s wife. Geraldo Hernandez had
been in jail for 60 years. He had had a youthful marriage. And they desperately
wanted to have a child. They would not let his wife
Adriana come up to the United States to see him. He was barred. Leahy and Leahy’s wife
met Adriana in Havana, got deeply, deeply
moved by them. And then arrangements were
made so that her daughter one day was removed from the
prison in Victorville. They call it Victorville. Really, they call it Victorkill,
because so many prisoners got killed over there. It’s the worst prison in the
United States, Victorville. So they remove him. He goes to Los Angeles. They take his semen. His wife gets
impregnated in Panama. And end after one
unsuccessful attempt, they have a successful attempt. And she becomes pregnant. So we’re now talking
about mid– let’s say– 2014. And she becomes pregnant. And she’s becoming larger. And they have to take her
out of the public eye, because how can she have
a child by whatever? So ultimately, what happens is– and that’s one of the
things that kind of expedite the whole process, the whole
idea of her having a child and having a birth in
Havana when her husband has been in prison for 16 years. It raises a lot of questions. What Leahy did is kept quiet. Menendez, the New
Jersey congressman, and other anti-Cuban people
know nothing about it. Leahy does this on his
own with the cooperation of the prison system, which
is absolutely remarkable, remarkable that they were
able to get away with it and remarkable that the
whole thing happened. So December 2014, Hernandez
steps off a plane. And for the first time
his wife comes out to meet him at the plane. And it’s clear that she’s
eight months pregnant. I did a show about that time
one Amy Goodman, Democracy Now, who I know. And she said the
reason she had me there was to try and figure
out if I would help her during the interview with
exactly what had happened. So she said to me, how
did she have a child? How did that happen? And I didn’t answer. And Amy Goodman got angry
at me and said, Marti, the child looks just like you. In any event, the book ends
with Anne and I in Havana. And we’re celebrating
with the defendants, who are now out of jail,
the five defendants. This is in about 2016, 2017. By this point, Geraldo
has three children. By the way, the
Geraldo and his wife are all portrayed in this
very, very fine movie. As I said, it’s
going to open here by those who know the film
world, Oliver Assayas, a very fine film director. And it talks about what
these guys did down in Miami. So we were there
2014, and 2015, ’16. And we met with the Cubans. And this is how
basically the book ends. “I was treated by Geraldo
and his fellow members of the Cuban Five
as someone who had made an enormous contribution to
the freedom that they now had, but I knew that my
contribution was not as great as they thought it was. I was just one part of a
larger unpredictable series of events that led to this
day in this noisy Havana front yard. I never had my day in
court to defend him and never made the
argument I wanted to make in front of the Miami
judge who had sentenced him. But I felt a flood of feeling
wash over me that startled me. It was not my usual pessimism,
my usual feeling of pessimism, if not despair, that
has been my life working in the lawless dark
world of the law. I think it is called gratitude. And it’s felt like
kind of a heaven.” So the book deals basically
with the lives of these people, the American legal
system, its failures then, its failures today,
the extent to which you had fake news then, $15 million
poured each year into Havana, basically to
influence the media. Federal monies were
spent so that there would be billboards throughout Miami. Federal monies were
spent so that there would be stuff in Walmart and
so and so, convict, convict, convict. And what happened
in this case is not totally unusual in
American legal history. That’s what the book is about. And I’m trying to
deal in the book with what I perceive
to be the larger issues, the American legal
system, how it succeeds, how it fails, the
extent to which it is subject to
political influence, what prosecutors can do
if they’re not limited, what juries can do, and
what juries can’t do. And that speaks, of
course, to the day. Thank you. Marti is happy to
entertain questions. And we have microphones
to circulate. Start it off. So thank you. If there’s time later,
I’d like to ask you about some of the
other cases you’ve worked on, but on this
topic, just to clarify, you mentioned Radio Marti. And because I think this
is maybe a little garbled, Radio Marti is actually part of
a consortium of radio stations funded by the US government. So Radio Marti is definitely
part of federal expenditures that you mentioned later. And can you explain a little
more carefully or in a little more detail how you
link the decision that the handling their management
of the case of the Cuban Five with the decision of the
Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore? Because you suggested
that it was a very– I mean, obviously it was
a political decision. Because the prosecution
is in May of 1999. And the demand for
the Cubans, they’ve been trying for three to
four years to get these guys prosecuted. Clinton and the US attorneys
basically have resisted. You get in a Reagan appointee. You have Bush. You have Rubio. You have them riding the
horse of anti-Castroism. And you have them demeaning
Clinton and critical of Clinton, because
of his attempts, which were well-known in
Florida, to have some kind of rapprochement. So what this is seen as a
killing orchestrated by Castro. Ultimately, there’s
a prosecution. And what happens is the
Cuban population, of course, take sides, gets energized,
and the Cuban population recognizing, the deeply
anti-Castroism Cuban population recognizes that the coming out– they ultimately come
out to the polls. It energizes them. And then when Clinton
sends back Elian Gonzalez– the Elian Gonzalez
story, briefly what it is for those who don’t
know it, he and his mother are coming in from Cuba, going
through the United States. The boat overturns. The mother dies. Elian, this young
boy, is 11-years-old. The uncles in Florida
want to keep him. The father wants
him back in Miami. It’s a very large event. Janet Renault’s is
the US Attorney. Ultimately, the boy is returned. The boy is returned when
people come out 3:00 and 4:00 in the morning, go
to the boy’s house, and take him and bring him back. So the hostility of
the Cuban community to Clinton for having done
that and for the Clinton administration not
having had prosecuted these guys for
three or four years became a political football. And it’s still,
though the politics of Cubans in South America
have somewhat changed, because the younger
people are less influenced by the
Bay of Pigs world and the world that led to that– so it became a pivot
point in Florida in that particular election. So Castro was saying that
maybe if the shoot down had not been ordered, putting
aside Gonzalez, which is a different
problem, also, it may have been that you
wouldn’t have engendered all that Cuban hostility. And the Cubans would not
have come out as strongly against Clinton. And this is Castro talking. He was not foolish. And for him to admit a mistake
like that is significant. How many people up top
admit mistakes like that? Any other questions? Anything else? Yeah, sure. So what happens in
the Miami courtroom is kind of predetermined
to an extent. Once you get up to the Court
of Appeals and in theory, it should be removed
somewhat from politics. Did you see a change there? Were they at all willing
to look at the situation, look at the politics surrounding
it, question the fairness, or did they treat it
like any other trial where discretion of the
jury is given high weight? To what extent to
the Court of Appeals kind of recognized the
circumstances in Miami, I guess. That’s a wonderful question. And it’ll just take a little
texture to give you the answer. The case is in Miami. And the defendants make a motion
to get the case kicked out of Miami on the grounds
that the politics of Miami is such that these guys
can’t get a fair trial. I have tried, let’s
say, 50 cases, where you’ve had motions
for change of venue. And it’s something you can get. I had a particular case,
a murder case in New York, where we went from venue
to venue to venue to venue. We went five times. In Miami, the judge denied
the change of venue. Now, let’s understand
what that means. If you’re trying
the case in Miami, you’re going to have
demonstrations outside. You’re going to have
lawyers trying the cases who know that their professional
life is endangered, because they’re up there. They’re trying cases. There was one lawyer in
the case, Joaquin Menendez, who was Cuban, who
agreed to take the case. And his house was bombed
in the first few weeks. I’ve never been involved
in a case, where the motion for change
of venue should have been as easily granted. It was not. So the conviction is there. The case goes up on appeal. And you have a
three judge court. The three judges say,
the case should not have been tried in Miami. The three judges
say, we’re going to reverse the conviction. The three judges say, the
case should go elsewhere. The government has the right
to appeal that to a larger court called an unbound court. And they do that. And the case is
ultimately appealed. And ultimately, the higher
court reverses the decision to amend it to change venue
and affirms the conviction. There’s the illusion
often correct that appellate judges
are free of bias. They’re not. They’re like anybody else. Some are freer than others. You can’t put Brandeis,
Brennan, Black, Douglas in the same
place as Pryor, but everybody brings their
own particular baggage. I think one of the things
the wonderful things about the Trump era
is it answers forever the question of political
biases in judges. The illusion of
American democracy that you have judges who
are totally free arbitrators of truth, I don’t think any of
us can ever have that again. It took the Trump
administration to make that clear for so many
people, but it was clear in the ’80s and the ’90s. And there were great battles. And the battles were
won by the right. The left never got
involved in it– the Federalist Society
and other organizations. There were liberal groups that
were formulated, the American Constitution Society. But the battle in
the ’90s, ’80s, even the beginning of 2000
were all won by the right. The left did not pay
attention to it sufficiently. And that’s why you
have what you have now, this kind of judiciary. Thank you for
speaking to us today. As you probably know,
there is a great number of cases that are being
brought against companies that have operated in Cuba. And under the Helms Burton Act,
they can now be prosecuted. And along with this theme
that you’re talking about, which is seeking truth in the
courts, what advice would you give to judges and juries
on these cases that are– Let me answer your question
in a much broader way. About two weeks ago, I
had lunch with breakfast with the Cuban ambassador. And he was talking about what
the Trump administration had successfully done to Cuba,
as no one else had ever done it before. And at the present time– I’m not trying to
get into politics right left, of course– they don’t have
enough money for fuel. The cruise ships
have been cut down. Bolton said, when
he was in power, the troika of tyranny,
Russia, Venezuela, Cuba, all kinds of laws were passed. There’s a law now, for example,
where if you had land in Cuba in 1959 and then Castro
took over that land, you or your heirs
can allegedly walk into a courtroom in
America and try and get the moneys for that land. It’s preposterous. There have been lawsuits filed
in Florida and other places. So if Marriott Hotel wants
to do business now in Cuba and is on a piece
of land that had been owned by Cubans
in 1959, Marriott can face a lawsuit
in London, in Miami. So people can get
back the assets that allegedly [INAUDIBLE]
these people in 1959. Now, none of these cases
have gone to conclusion yet, but it’s a wonderful ploy
by the Trump administration, because if I’m a man
who had some land and I now have children and
my children are the people who are more sympathetic to Castro
then they might otherwise be, you’re now telling
these children you go along with this particular law
and you will ultimately benefit financially. It’s like a bribe to the
young people of Cuba. I’ve done a lot of cases in
South Africa, Chile, blah, blah, blah. I don’t want to
get the case lost. Cuba has just dropped
off the front pages. The legal issues that the book
discusses, the political issues that the book
discusses are there and are deep and profound. And I think it requires the
American legal system, the jail system. What happened to these people,
for example, the defendants, any time there was a major
incident, 9/11, Iraq, they didn’t know what
to make of the Cubans. They thought it was
the Cubans fault. So every time something
like that happened, my guys Gerardo
and the others, who were in the prison
population were pulled back and sent into solitary. And let me tell you something,
I discussed it in the book. But it’s worth knowing
what solitary really is. What they did, for example,
with Gerardo of two months. They put him. He was tied to the bunk of
his bed lying on the floor, not having the use of
a bathroom, not moving. And that was solitary
for two months, being tied to the bottom. Solitary also, was he went down,
and there was a three cells. On this cell was a guy
who’s yelling and screaming because he’s nuts. And on this cell is a guy
who’s yelling and screaming because he’s nuts, and
Gerardo was in the middle. And it goes on 24 hours a day. So it’s not just a
nice little white cell with no light coming in. It is an excuse for
extraordinary brutality. In Massachusetts,
as I was reading, and I know there
were attempts here to change the laws with
respect to solitary. And as I understand it, I
just followed it very briefly, there has been resistance to
really dealing with that issue. They try to deal with
it on a national level. It’s absolutely clear that the
Supreme Court Kavanaugh Gore search, et cetera, is not going
to be a court leading the way to make prison
conditions better. [INAUDIBLE] You have a mic on. I’m sorry. Excuse me. This issue that you speak
about solitary confinement that is dreadful. What is your opinion on
Manafort being held in solitary by Mueller? How was that justify– I don’t think anybody
should be in solitary. I think it’s inhuman,
whether it’s Manafort or the man in the moon. The other issue is the principle
that you said that these– they’re allowed to sue
to get their land back. Yes. How about, for
example, Germans are allowed to sue to get back
what the Nazis expropriated? So what’s wrong? Isn’t that the same principle? I think they’re
different situations. I just do. I make a political distinction. I think that with the Nazis
did is different than what Cuba tried to do in ’59. That’s my political belief. OK. Thank you. I don’t pass it off as truth. Any other questions? Yeah. Nobody else wants to ask
about the Cuban Five I was pleased to
see when I looked, did a little research last
night that you once represented the wonderful American
comedian and social satirist, Lenny Bruce. Yes. And I just recently got
to hear Bob Dylan, who’s just started his North America. The next leg of his
never ending tour. And he did his song “Lenny
Bruce” for the first time, in 11 years, and
it’s just exquisite– I never heard it. It’s beautiful. So if you have a
chance to hear it. Is that right? I never heard. I didn’t know of it. You can hear it online. Rolling Stone surreptitiously
recorded the entire concert. So it’s just a beautiful song. So would you care to say
anything about Lenny? Your work with Lenny Bruce? I’ll tell you one
little Bruce story. And then I haven’t– I’ll just tell you one
little Bruce story, which says something about who
he was, and how bright he was, and how sensitive he was. One of the issues in the case
was the use of the word fuck. And it’s a word that he used. And he used it in all
different kinds of ways. And they had other language. But the word fuck, fuck,
fuck was in the courtroom half the time. You couldn’t get
away from the word. And the Chief Judge in the case
was someone called Murtaugh. And there were two other judges. And Murtaugh was the judge. He was the senior judge. He was going to
make the decision. The other two guys had nothing,
you know, blah, blah, blah. Murtaugh was going to make it. So then we have a witness. I think it was Nat Hentoff or
somebody, gets up on the stand. And he says, “If
you’re in the army, you hear that word all the time. What the fuck? Pass the fucking soup with the
fucking knife, and the fucking butter.” And so he gets up. And I think we had other
witnesses testifying to the use of that
word in the army. How it was common,
and it was certainly common in common cultures. And then Murtaugh gets up. He’s sitting up there. And he says, “I was in
the army for three years, and I never had
heard that word.” So everybody laughed at him. And then the Philip Roth
was in the audience. Everybody laughed at him. And then Bruce got up, and
he said, “Don’t laugh at him. He’s telling the truth. Murtaugh is not a guy you
would say fuck in front of.” That’s great. So then I also want to
ask about Leonard Peltier. And just to push back a little
on Clinton, because I think, understandably, have
a favorable view of his role on the Cuban Five. But with Leonard
Peltier, there’s a feeling on the part of some
people that he really betrayed, promises that he made, and– But Clinton betrayed promises. About Leonard Pelletier. But in any case, could you say
a little about Leonard, please? I saw Leonard about a year ago. Leonard, unlike The
Cuban Five, probably racked up more violations
than any prisoner in any jail. He was horrifically abused. He’s never getting out. He’s a sick man. I tried Wounded Knee cases. I was in Nebraska for
a couple of months, whenever that happened,
couple of decades ago. If the question is, “Are
you absolutely convinced that he’s innocent?” I think that’s a
complicated conversation. And then the next question is,
“In that kind of environment, where people are shooting
at people, what is innocence and what is guilt? And who causes what?” For a brief period of my
life, I represented the Black Liberation Army until I
could no longer do so. So that I think they are
very complicated questions, if you’re a lawyer. As to who you represented,
I was happy to represent Leonard Peltier. I gave him as much as I could. It was far too late. And he’s never getting out. I don’t see any other hand– Oh, wait. Would you be able
to give us an update about your work in Ecuador? Ecuador is a disaster. It’s a disaster because Charlie
used the word asymmetrical litigation. Well, I understand
that term today. When the power is on
this side, and there’s no power on the other side. If you did, if
one did, if I did, civil rights and
civil liberties work. In America, in
difficult situations, I represented Chavez. I was down south, et cetera,
et cetera, et cetera. This is the power against you. It’s the government. And the government, of
course, has the resources. And has whatever effect it
has on the legal system. So that you’re
fighting against this. And sometimes, you lose because
you don’t have the power. Fighting against the large
environmental destructors, like Texaco, BP, is a
nearly hopeless task. It’s nearly hopeless because
the amount of resources that these companies
have is extraordinary. The amount of profits that
they make is extraordinary. BP, when it had its
disaster, decided ultimately to spend $50 billion
for the cleanup. What happened in
Ecuador is horrific. The way they destroy
the rainforest, the lives of people, the proof
that came in the Ecuador case about cancer, and the
destruction of that country was extraordinary. And it’s all true. And ultimately, the
Ecuadorian court grants a judgment against
Chevron and Texaco, of $20 billion. It gets cut in half
to $10 billion. You have a legal
system in Ecuador, you have a trial, and appellate
level, appellate level, and then a higher level. And all of those courts
affirm the judgment. You then come into
America, and you come before a judge in
the Southern District of New York, who says– He says fundamentally,
“It’s a 536-page opinion, so you have to read it. I don’t want to
oversimplify it.” He finds that the US lawyers
are Harvard Law graduate named Steve Donziger who was one
of the lead lawyers at one point in the case. That they admit that they
committed frauds in order to get those judgments. And this Judge Kaplan
then sets aside the award. We’re trying now to get the
award enforced in Canada. Yesterday, I was on trial
all day with Steve Donziger. They’re trying to disbar him. They have suspended his
license for what he did. Now, there is no
way you can litigate against these companies. Now, whether you want to make
an analogy between that and gun litigation, which you
know it gets a little here and a little there. But basically, gets nowhere. I was involved in the
beginning of the cigarette litigation, cancer litigation. It took decades to get anywhere. But the enormity
and the power, know there is no reason
why Chevron should not spend billions to beat up
lawyers and break lawyers. Given the profits they get
from these kinds of things. They try and make
the Ecuadorians in the Ecuadorian case
amnesty, Greenpeace amnesty. Every organization is on
the side of the Ecuadorians. It’s very hard to be optimistic. Sorry, would you like a mic? I’m sorry. I just wanted to mention
that Leonard Peltier has been allowed to be on a
vice-presidential candidate with Laura Garza, running on
one of the socialist platforms with Laura Garza. And he has been allowed to
be run as vice-president in the next election. The next election is 2020. I hope he lives that long. He’s very sick. You mentioned that Trump
has brought home the lesson that the judges view their cases
through their political eyes. And as you say, it
is not a new thing, but maybe it’s
been made apparent. But not only is it a
matter of qualitative matter to quantitative
matter, and the court seemed to have been infested
now that will go on. Your granddaughters
here, my grandchildren will be impacted by it. What can we do if the democrats,
my mouth to God’s ears, were to take control
of the Senate? And the presidency
should the Supreme Court be packed in a Roosevelt or two. To write this balance that
is probably more extreme now, even if it has always been. Then, at least,
in recent memory. I don’t think that there will
be Supreme Court packing. I don’t believe the Electoral
College will be changed. I think tinkering
with the Constitution, however much we like
it, and would like to see that done, is unlikely. Whether we recognize that the
Constitution at this point, we have the oldest living
constitution, so and so. And that’s generally
sense is a positive. One can also look
at it as a negative, because you can’t change. You have the gerrymandering
cases coming down now. And it seems to me,
you have to make up for basically 10 to
15 years of neglect, on the side of the left, on
the side of the Democrats, and fighting for the courts. Now, putting aside
the Supreme Court, you’re talking about the
lower level courts and people like Pryor. Pryor couldn’t get when he
ran– when Bush nominated him. The Republicans would
not support him. And they didn’t
put Pryor on ice. And then he got a
recess appointment. So a lot of people
have been aware of the power of the judiciary. And now, as you
have issues like, let’s say,
gerrymandering, which is so critical in voting rights. And then how you look at the
Voting Rights Act before. And now you have
Barr with his views on the un-separation
of church and state, however you define it. It’s a critical time. And why the Democrats, for
20 years, sat on their hands basically, and couldn’t get
the resources to do it is sad. And we’re all going to live
with it, your daughter, and my granddaughter. Nothing to do. All you can do is
mobilize, or you can do– If they had 20 years
or 15 years of freedom with respect to fooling
around with the courts. And you have Nan Aron. You have some wonderful people
who are now committed to it. She was around a long
time ago, but they were no sources to support
what she wanted to do. Charlie standing up,
that means I sit down. Martin Garbus, thank you
very much for speaking to us. It’s been an honor
to have you here.




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