By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
Another victory for the government, though certainly not as important, was the effort to oust Miami attorney L. Mark Dachs. Judge Moreno, at the urging of prosecutors, tossed Dachs off the defense team after a special hearing that was closed to the press and the public. Dachs, a long-time lawyer for Falc centsn and Magluta, continues to consult with the other defense attorneys. But in September, when he tried to attend one of Falc centsn and Magluta's open hearings as a member of the public, he was ordered out of the courtroom by Moreno. The judge said his ruling prevented Dachs from even sitting in the visitors' gallery, a move other attorneys say is unprecedented and unconstitutional.
Dachs now acknowledges that he was banned because he is the target of a grand jury criminal probe. "I have done nothing wrong and the government knows that," Dachs argues. "This is a device the government has successfully used to get me off the case. This is also an act of retaliation because I refused to turn over attorney fee records for these two defendants after being served with a subpoena. After I refused, they labeled me a target of a criminal investigation."
Prosecutors have been granted other closed sessions with Judge Moreno, hearings from which even defense attorneys have been barred. Sources involved with the case say the government has presented to Moreno a series of "intelligence reports" gathered from confidential informants that outline a variety of security risks associated with the trial generally and with Falc centsn and Magluta in particular. According to these sources, similar information has been presented to a federal grand jury.
In late September, Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Clark, who is leading the prosecution team, drew on some of this confidential information during his arguments for a highly unusual judicial procedure: the selection and empaneling of jury members whose names would remain secret.
The shooting of government witnesses Juan Barroso and Lazaro Cruz, and the murders of attorney Juan Acosta and witness Luis Escobedo garnered little attention in the media, particularly as they might relate to Falc centsn and Magluta. But this past June all that changed with the execution-style killings of brothers Bernardo and Humberto Gonzalez. (The Gonzalez brothers are no relation to the pipe-bomb-toting Mario Gonzalez.)
Bernardo Gonzalez, Willy Falc centsn, and Sal Magluta had been friends since their days at Miami High School. Prosecutors say Gonzalez later became a key player in the Falc centsn-Magluta organization, responsible for arranging many of their cocaine shipments from the Bahamas.
On June 21, during a courtroom hearing in the case, both prosecutors and defense attorneys presented evidence that clearly marked Bernardo Gonzalez as the man who had betrayed his old friends and tipped investigators to Magluta's hideout on La Gorce Island.
The very next day Bernardo and his brother, who was an innocent bystander, were murdered at their parents' West Dade home in what investigators say was a professional hit.
Prosecutors later stated that the timing of the murders -- one day after Bernardo Gonzalez was identified in court as the informant who had brought down Falc centsn and Magluta -- added weight to their arguments for a secret jury. But defense attorneys countered that it was ludicrous to think their clients -- if they were to order a murder -- would do so one day after the courtroom revelations. Besides, they added, Falc centsn and Magluta didn't need the June 21 hearing to learn that their friend Gonzalez was a snitch; they had known it for some time.
But prosecutors continued to argue that the Gonzalez murders lent credence to the need for a secret jury. Casting their net even wider, they recently claimed "there are specific and stark similarities between the Gonzalez murders and that of [Luis] Escobedo." In court papers filed in September, prosecutors added this dramatic declaration: "The United States has received confidential information that defendants Falc centsn and Magluta plan to kill additional witnesses expected to testify in this case."
Exasperated defense attorneys say the government has grown increasingly reckless in associating Falc centsn and Magluta with the murders. In each instance, they contend, there is no definitive proof. Furthermore, they add, most of the dead or wounded witnesses were cooperating with the government in a number of other criminal cases. Dozens of people might have wanted them killed.
Exactly one week after the Gonzalez brothers were shot, federal Bureau of Prisons officials swooped down on Falc centsn's and Magluta's cells at MCC. The pretext was that the pair once again had been ordered to solitary confinement. Federal authorities will not say why the order was issued -- whether they feared an imminent escape attempt or whether they were angered and frustrated by the Gonzalez murders -- but as a routine matter, the inmates' cells were searched. What happened next, however, was far from routine. Prison officials spent more than three hours reading through all of Magluta's files marked "attorney-client." They then contacted the U.S. Attorney's Office and provided prosecutors with copies and originals of numerous documents.
"The materials seized included, but were not limited to, eighteen memoranda authored by Magluta's counsel, Martin G. Weinberg, and by other lawyers representing co-defendants Falc centsn and [Benny] Lorenzo," defense attorney Ed Shohat wrote in an indignant court plea for the immediate return of all documents. "The memoranda addressed subject matters ranging from potential cross-examination of government witnesses to potential defense theories relating to various facets of the expected government case-in-chief." Officials also seized four legal pads filled with the names, phone numbers, and addresses of anticipated government witnesses. Given the apparent campaign of violence and intimidation, prosecutors argued, it was dangerous to allow Magluta to keep the pads.