Friday, May 16, 2008

The Miami News, August 6, 1976, "FBI Informer Ties 2 to Firebombing" by Hilda Inclan.

FBI informant Miguel Angel Peraza has told authorities that two of the three men standing trial for attempting to bomb a Little Havana adult bookstore, threw firebombs into the home of an Areito magazine staffer almost three weeks before they were arrested at the bookstore on May 6.

One of the two, Antonio Rafael de la Cova, 25, already faces charges for the attempted firebombing at the home of Vicente Dopico as well as for the attempted bombing of the apartment of Eliseo Perez-Stable, another staffer of Areito, regarded as a pro-Castro magazine by some exiles here.

But Peraza, 34, said in a sworn deposition Wednesday night that both de la Cova and Blas Jesus Corbo, 20, threw the firebombs into Dopico's house on April 17. None of the firebombs nor the pipe bomb planted outside Perez-Stable's apartment went off.

Peraza, who was working for the FBI as a confidential informant on April 17, said he remained in a car outside Dopico's house while de la Cova and Corbo left with the firebombs and returned empty-handed minutes later.

According to Peraza, de la Cova later returned to the scene in his motorcycle out of curiosity to find out whether police had come out to check the bombs.

Peraza, who is due to testify this morning, said in his deposition de la Cova masterminded the attempted bombing of the bookstore. He also said de la Cova, Corbo and Gary Latham, the third defendant, had also considered bombing a synagogue in Fort Lauderdale and had planned another bombing (he did not mention the site) for May 20, Cuba's Independence Day.

(Latham, in his second turnabout in the trial, yesterday agreed to testify against his co-defendants.)

Peraza said de la Cova introduced him to Corbo in April.

Peraza, who has been accused of fomenting the bookstore crime by de la Cova's attorney, Mel Black, denied prodding the three arrested men to commit crimes.

"I let them think I was following them," he said. "I let them think I was a terrorist. I couldn't let them think I was a priest either."

De la Cova, a history buff who collected data on ati-Castro organizations and police officers alike, bought a pipe in a Lindsley Lumber store in Fort Lauderdale with $5 he borrowed from Peraza sometime in April, the informant said.

He added that he saw de la Cova making the pipe bomb later droppped in front of the bookstore. He said de la Cova assembled the device May 5 inside Latham's Boca Raton apartment under Latham's supervision.

Peraza said he couldn't find out where the trio had obtained the explosives used to manufacture the bomb or those stored in the apartment.

De la Cova, 25, in turn, is expected to testify that Peraza planned the entire bookstore operation and furnished the explosives. Black has been basing his client's defense on FBI entrapment.

FBI Agent George Kiszynski testified yesterday that Peraza's reliability had been tested against other informants. He said Peraza, who had been employed by a Spanish-language newspaper and later by a magazine, had been cooperating with the FBI as a volunteer since 1973, furnishing information on Castro-Communist infiltration in Miami and had never sought or received any payment.

But, Kiszynski added, he paid Peraza a total of $3,900 in expenses so far this year.

Latham, 22, spent a good deal of time last night giving a sworn deposition on the bookstore incident to the prosecutors, Assistant State Attorneys George Yoss and Hank Adorno.

Latham yesterday agreed to testify against his co-defendants if the state asked him. It was his second turnabout in plea-bargaining negotiations with the state. He pleaded no contest to five of six charges which, in all, carry a maximum sentence of 35 years.

In return, the state dropped one charge against him for possession of explosives with intent to harm, carrying with it a maximum sentence of 15 years. The agreement also stipulated that the state sentence was to run concurrently with whatever federal sentence is handed down. All three defendants face similar federal charges on Aug. 31.

Latham had already pleaded guilty in federal court in exchange for a maximum concurrent sentence of 12 years.

Had he stood firm on the first guilty plea he entered before Circuit Court Judge Ellen Morphonios Wednesday, he would have spared himself a possible 15 years in jail.

At that time, the state was willing to drop another charge against him for placing an explosive device with intent to harm, which carried with it a maximum 15-year sentence.

The reason the state was less willing to drop that charge yesterday was that Latham was not needed as badly as a witness.

"Yesterday he had a lot more to give us before we gave immunity to Peraza and obtained his deposition," Yoss explained.

Latham withdrew his first guilty plea when he realized that his friend, de la Cova, was not going to enter a similar plea - a situation which would have forced Latham to testify against de la Cova.

Latham's mother, father and two sisters talked to him briefly yesterday and apparently persuaded him to negotiate again. De la Cova was visibly angered by the move, while Corbo remained aloof.

Judge Morphonios asked Latham yesterday if he fully understood the terms of his plea and warned him that he could get the maximum sentenced on the five charges - 35 years - and probably would.

He said he understood.

Copyright (c) 1976 The Miami News