Friday, May 9, 2008

The Miami Herald, August 3, 1976, "Jury Selection to Resume in Bookstore Bomb Trial" by Joe Crankshaw.

Selection of a jury for the trial of three men charged with the May 6 attempted bombing of a Little Havana adult bookstore continues this morning before Dade Circuit Judge Ellen Morphonios.

Five jurors tentatively were selected for the panel Monday even though defense attorneys for Antonio Rafael de la Cova, Blas Jesus Corbo and Gary E. Latham had claimed impartial jurors would not be found in Miami.

Attorneys on both sides provided two surprises after it became apparent that no plea negotiations were going to develop.

Assistant State attorney Hank Adorno revealed that Miguel Angel Peraza, a confidential FBI informant who was with the three defendants at the time of the alleged attempt, would not be called as a main witness in the case.

Adorno did not provide any information as to why Peraza would not be called, and attorney Alfonso Sepe said he expects that Peraza may be called as a witness by the defense.

Sepe also added a surprise by announcing that his client, Latham, will withdraw a guilty plea he entered in U.S. District Court to charges related to the bombing attempt.

Latham, de la Cova and Corbo are scheduled to go on trial on the federal charges Aug. 31 before U.S. District Judge C. Clyde Atkins.

Sepe, Assistant Public Defender Mel Black, representing de la Cova, and attorney Nathan Kurtz representing Corbo, spent Monday morning putting motions before Judge Morphonious.

The attorneys individually and collectively asked the judge to delay the case to allow more time for preparation of their defenses, and for a change of venue to move the trial out of Dade County.

The attorneys also asked that the judge compel the prosecutions to provide them with all statements made by their clients at any time and on any subject.

Adorno argued that the state had released all statements pertinent to the trial and that the other statements still held dealt with other crimes, including homicides, now under investigation by the Metro Public Safety Department.

"They are entitled to all statements made by their clients," ruled Judge Morphonious, giving the defense one of the two favorable rulings it received during the morning.

The other favorable ruling came when Judge Morphonious said she would reserve judgement on changing the site of the trial until it could be determined if selection of a jury would be possible.

Defense attorneys had argued that pretrial publicity, which they said included 65 articles in a three-month period plus numerous radio and television broadcasts, had "poisoned the mind of the community" and also provided inaccurate information.

To back up their contention, Black called Gordon Winslow, a deputy court clerk, who repeated statements made ealrier that he had given de la Cova a copy of an FBI report that had been given to Winslow by Alan J. Weberman, Yippie spokesman and author.

And Black called Mrs. Ethel Latham, mother on the defendent, who testified that she had never seen a Nazi flag displayed in her son's apartment in Boca Raton. FBI agents reported finding a Nazi flag in the apartment.

The FBI report and the Nazi flag were mentioned in news stories quoting officials as saying they did not know how the report got into de la Cova's hands. Weberman and Winslow came forward after the stories were printed.

But Judge Morphonious ruled that the selection of a jury would go forward. "I am not going to order a change of venue at this time. I believe that the publicity prior to the trial has not prejudiced the public's mind and that a jury can be selected," she said.

If convicted on the seven-count [?], alleging conspiracy to commit arson, unlawful possession of expolsives, attempted arson and possession of an unregistered concealed firearm, the three could receive up to 45 years in prison.

Federal charges, covering possession of unregistered firearms or destructive devices and conspiracy to explode a destructive device, carry a maximum sentence of 35 years.

According to investigators, de la Cova, Latham and Peraza, met in Boca Raton, drove to miami Beach and picked up Corbo, then went to the Libros Para Adultos, 3458 SW Eighth St. and attmepted to place a pipebomb at the door about 1:30 a.m. May 6.

A posse of FBI agents, Miami and Metro police were waiting to arrest them.

Copyright (c) 1976 The Miami Herald