BEST TERROR ALERT October 26, 2004
Miami International Airport Mizael Cabral and Daniel Correa, two athletic, young kite surfers from Brazil, are heading back to their homeland after spending a couple of years hanging out in Pompano Beach. They check their boards, sails, assorted other gear, and luggage through the x-ray machine at MIA's international terminal. Among the gear is a small belt sander kite surfers use to shape their boards; it is cylindrical and resembles a tank. The Portuguese word for tank is bomba. So when a security agent asks Cabral, who barely speaks English, what's in one of his overstuffed bags, the 29-year-old says bomba. His 27-year-old pal Daniel, who speaks better English (his mom is a U.S. citizen and resides in Davie), comes over and jokes that it might explode -- a reference to the bag being so tightly packed. Of course they're arrested and charged with felonies: willfully or maliciously making false statements "with the intent to cause fear" and "reckless disregard for the safety of human life." Their tourist visas long expired, the surfers are imprisoned for a month at the Federal Detention Center in downtown Miami and then another month at the Krome Detention Center for immigration-law violations. Meanwhile the story hits the front pages in Brazil's national press. The governor from the surfers' province demands that Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva lean on President George W. Bush to intervene. Cabral and Correa's federal public defenders, armed with testimony from TSA officials that the guys should have been spanked and immediately sent home to Brazil, head for trial. Suddenly the U.S. Attorney's Office offers an eleventh-hour plea deal to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor for impeding a federal official in the performance of his duties. U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno sentences Cabral and Correa to time served, but knowing they had been carrying about $8000 in hard-earned cash when the incident occurred, fines them each $2000. "Ridiculous," sighs Marc Seitles, Cabral's public defender.