Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Miami Herald, May 8, 1976, "Recalling the 'Intellectual' and the 'Radical'" by Dorothy Gaiter.

Antonio de la Cova and Gary E. Latham were as different as night and day to the friends and professors who knew them as students at Florida Atlantic University.

De la Cova, 25, was "unstable, braggadocious," feared by some of the professors in the history department. He carried a gun on campus which frightened students so badly that none would testify to police that he had it, one professor said. He was "a dangerous element."

Latham, 27, was remembered Friday as a "quiet, withdrawn methodical student who kept to himself." He was a very intelligent and maintained a straight-A average, earning a place on the President's Honor List.

Those that saw them together wondered what they had in common. Several people who knew one had never heard of the other.

And yet something during their time together at FAU - before de la Cova withdrew from the University "voluntarily" according to school records - the two became friends, accomplices in some shadowy radical bond that led to their arrest Thursday morning for planting a bomb at an adult book store in Miami's Little Havana.

Undercover police, waiting for them, at the store while de la Cova took a potentially fatal pipe bomb wrapped in a brown paper bag toward the building.

The two were taken into custody on a string of federal and state bomb and-or conspiracy charges. Blas Jesus Corbo, a student at Miami-Dade Community College, was with them and shares the charges.

Friday, U.S. Magistrate J.V. Eskenazi reduced the bond for Latham from $200,000 to $100,000 in cash or securities and Corbo from $200,000 to $50,000 in cash or securities.

De la Cova was not present in the Miami courtroom because he has not hired an attorney and cannot represent himself at a bond reduction hearing.

All that led to the arrest Thursday will unfold in time as the police investigation continues and when the fear of talking about them leaves the hearts of some of those who know them - especially de la Cova.

"Tony" was well known on campus as an anti-Semite who was the information spokesman for the Arab and American Student Organization which in his words, "tenaciously professed a strong anti-Zionist platforms,"

Although he was known to sometimes wear a full army fatigue outfit, complete with boots and a hat, students remember that he participated in an Arab-Israeli debate in 1974 wearing a "very chic pin-striped suit and he tore them (the pro-Israeli speakers) apart." Latham, on the other hand, shunned public attention and kept to himself.

"Tony" often sang at the campus' coffeehouses playing his guitar or harmonica, singing songs he'd written that were patterned after Bob Dylan's style, said G. Beppo, a student who used to operate the coffeehouse. Beppo said the only time he saw de la Cova lose his temper was "when he was being heckled by Israeli students."

Academically, he was a "pretty good student," said Dale Hoak who taught him in four courses before taking another job in Virginia last year. De la Cova "raised a lot of questions about his political activities and there was his attitude towards some of his professors.

"Some of my colleagues (in the history department - Tony was a history major) felt personally threatened and they expressed this. I was also very upset by it and I knew that there was a tension about it," Hoak said.

The "tension was so great, that de la Cova once wrote a letter printed in the student paper, the Atlantic Sun, accusing Dr. Boyd Breslow of grading an exam with "undo influence because of my personal beliefs."

According to the letter, Breslow reconsidered the D he gave de la Cova and "re-evaluated the paper to a C-plus." Breslow refused to talk about the disagreement when questioned by Miami Herald Correspondent C.L. Steele.

An acquaintance of de la Cova who asked not to be identified said he had both a "running dislike and respect for Boyd Breslow."

The "tension" grew, professor Hoak said, with members of the History Department meeting occasionally to "seek his expulsion from campus. But we had problems," Hoak said, "because we couldn't get any evidence that we could use.

"He was not a bad student, but he seemed to be disruptive to campus life to such an extraordinary degree that some of my colleagues actually felt threatened by him. I tried to completely separate his politics from his academic performance, but at the same time, his political activities seemed to border on the violent."

When he sought admission to the school's graduate department, the history department rejected his application and he applied to the University of Miami which accepted him even though Hoak wrote a letter suggesting that they evaluate his extracurricular leanings.

Whether de la Cova did half the "violent" things he boasted of is unknown at this time. Hoak said his accounts of various "escapades with anti-Castro ties in Miami" bordered on being braggadocious, "and one tended not to believe him for that reason."

Barbara Rice, a friend and former editor of the Sun when Tony was on campus, said he became disenchanted with the United States because he felt this country had "betrayed Cuban refugees. The State Department had sold them out and they couldn't get any sympathy from the press. He felt that the only thing left was violence," she said.

She said he talked about carrying out attacks on businesses that had ties with Cuba. However, federal agents late Thursday were trying to link the alleged aborted bomb attempt with bombings of the Miami FBI building, Social Security office, two post offices and a bank.

If Latham had any political philosophy, his professors and friends never heard him talk about it.

One student told Miss Steele that Gary "often talked about having radical friends," but he had "always assumed that they were left wing."

James McGuire, chairman of the Physics Department, said Latham was in class as ususal Wednesday, the day before the bombing attempt and he was "withdrawn."

Other professors told Miss Steele that they were shocked that police had confiscated explosive devices and a shotgun from Latham's apartment.

One teacher of the "straight," bespectacled student said Latham was so smart that, "I'd expect him to build a better bomb" than the contraption de la Cova had Thursday.

But still these were the two students arrested together Thursday. A flamboyant radical and a studious "straight" intellectual - an unlikely couple to be planting a bomb together.

Copyright (c) 1976 The Miami Herald