Can it be? This strange Miami suitcase trial
has come to its last stage. The prosecution and the defense have made
their closing arguments, and Friday the jury began deliberations
on whether to send Franklin Duran to prison for "acting as an
unregistered agent" of the government of Venezuela. Weeks of headlines,
and still nobody knows what that means. Here are the different version of events, as told to the jury:
US Government (DOJ): Duran was sent by Chavez himself to
threaten and/or bribe Guido Antonini to lie about the cash-filled
suitcase he was caught with in the Buenos Aires airport. Don't believe
what Argentine customs officers
say, the money was not Guido's. It was a gift from Chavez for Cristina
Kirchner's campaign. This prosecution is totally not politically
motivated, but let's spend the case talking about unrelated corruption
in Venezuela for some reason.
Frank Duran: I came to Miami to convince Antonini to return
to Argentina and face charges because he was my business partner and,
supposedly, my friend. He was being sketchy and was all like, "So I
really want to get this Chavez guy involved in this. I'm gonna send him
a letter asking for millions." It's clear that I was set up by the FBI
and the fat man as part of some scheme to embarrass Chavez. "This is
unprecedented, incredible. The sheer chutzpah of the FBI.'' Did I mention that Guido's a lying piece of shit who was trying to rip me off of millions everywhere from Florida to Uruguay?
So there you go.
week, Judge Joan Lenard finally made a major decision in Duran's favor.
She allowed the jury to consider whether or not the FBI had entrapped
the defendant. But then Lenard made a kind of legal make-up call by
letting the DOJ put Duran's other ex-business partner turned enemy,
Carlos Kauffman back up on the stand to counteract the entrapment
claim. To the orgasmic delight of the Venezuelan opposition and the US
State Department, Kauffman named names while talking specifically about
that he and Duran supposedly gave to Venezuelan officials over the last
10 years. There was a funny exchange during Kauffman's testimony when
he told Duran's attorney, Ed Shohat, to "Handle the truth. Handle the
truth," to which Shohat replied, "Are you Jack Nicholson?"
Here's a copy
of the jury instructions that were approved by Judge Lenard. They
explain what they can and cannot consider in determining the guilt or
innocence of Franklin Duran.
It's unclear what facts will sway the jury one way or the other, but
it does look pretty clear that the FBI did mount a "garbage operation"
against the governments of Venezuela and Argentina. And then they tried
to bribe Telpuk to change her testimony on Antonini (BTW – the pilot on the flight has also testified in Argentina
that, contrary to what the DOJ and Guido have stated, there was no
other suitcase on board that could have contained an additional $4.2
The jury must come to a unanimous decision or a mistrial will be
declared. They could find Duran innocent. Or guilty of conspiracy to
act as an unregistered agent while finding him innocent of being an
unregistered agent. Or they could find him guilty of both.
In the event that he is found guilty, the defense will surely appeal
the decision to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. There, Duran will be
able to revive the unconstituionality and Outrageous Goverment Actions
defenses that Judge Lenard did not find convincing, and have a
realistic shot at prevailing. No matter what, it's not going to be the
last we've heard of Franklin Duran and valijagate. Hooray.