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FALN Terrorist Trial: 1981

11 Arrested In Evanston, Federal Charges And Trial, Clinton Grants Clemency, Suggestions For Further Reading

Defendants: Elizam Escobar, Ricardo Jimenez, Adolfo Matos, Alfredo Mendez, Dylcia Noemi Pagan, Alicia Rodriguez, Ida Luz Rodriguez, Luis Rosa, Carlos Alberto Torres, and Carmen Valentin
Crimes Charged: Seditious conspiracy, interference with interstate commerce by threats or violence, possession of an unregistered firearm, carrying firearms during the commission of seditious conspiracy and interference with interstate commerce by violence, interstate transportation of firearms with intent to commit seditious conspiracy and interference with interstate commerce by violence, interstate transportation of stolen motor vehicles
Chief Defense Lawyers: None
Chief Prosecutor: Jeremy Margolis
Judge: Thomas R. McMillen
Place: Chicago, Illinois
Dates of Trial: February 3-18, 1981
Verdicts: Guilty
Sentences: Imprisonment—Escobar: 60 years; Jimenez: 90 years; Matos: 70 years; Mendez: 75 years; Pagan: 55 years; Alicia Rodriguez: 55 years; Ida Luz Rodriguez: 75 years; Rosa: 75 years; Torres: 70 years; Valentin: 90 years

SIGNIFICANCE: The trial of 10 FALN members in Chicago was one of the most sensational government cases against Puerto Rican nationalist groups accused of violence. The 1999 release of some of those convicted sparked a confrontation between Congress and the White House over the issue of Presidential Executive Privilege.

The 1970s were a troubled decade in the political history of Puerto Rico. Ceded by Spain in 1898 after the Spanish American War, the island became a territory and later an American commonwealth. The island's relationship to the United States has been controversial ever since, with activists advocating options ranging from formal recognition of Puerto Rico as the 51st state to complete independence, obtained by force if necessary.

In the 1970s, groups advocating violence for independence made their presence known with deadly results. Bombs exploded at military facilities and in cities across the American mainland. The worst incident occurred in January 1975, when an explosion tore through Fraunces Tavern in New York City's financial district during lunch hour, killing 4 people and injuring 53 others.

Radical groups credited with such attacks included the FALN or Fuerzas Armadas de Liberacion Nacional (Armed Forces of National Liberation). FALN actions were largely limited to bombings that created property damage and temporary takeovers of presidential campaign headquarters in New York and Chicago during the 1980 election primaries. Despite the group's reliance on publicity as a guerilla tactic, however, the group was also covertly linked to August 1977 bombings of the U.S. Department of Defense and Mobil Oil Corporation buildings in New York, in which one person was killed. The FBI suspected FALN involvement in over 100 other bombings nationwide, which, by the end of the decade, had killed 5 people, wounded 80 others, and caused millions of dollars in damage.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1981 to 1988