ABC, April 28, 2000
Court Denies Relatives Access, Allows Juan Miguel Gonzalez to Intervene
April 27 A federal appeals court today denied a request by Elian Gonzalez's Miami relatives for access to the boy and refused to appoint a guardian to oversee his legal interests.
Hours later, the same panel granted the boy's father's request to let him intervene in his son's asylum case but refused to immediately consider a request to remove the child's great-uncle from the action.
In the first matter, the Miami relatives asked the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta on Tuesday for a series of orders giving them access to 6-year-old Elian now that he is staying with his father Juan Miguel Gonzalez, stepmother Nersy Carmenate and half brother Hianny at a
rural Maryland retreat.
The Miami relatives asked that they, their attorneys and their doctors be given "regular and reasonable access to him" until the court rules on a claim of political asylum, or that the court name an outside guardian to look after him during that time.
In its ruling today, the court denied all of the family's requests, except to uphold its previous order that Elian not be allowed to go any place in the United States where he could receive diplomatic immunity.
The court said the government has offered to supply the court with bi-weekly reports from a psychiatrist as well as enlisting a social worker to monitor Elian's progress.
In a second ruling, issued shortly afterward, the court put off a decision on the father's request that he be substituted for Elian's great-uncle as the boy's representative in the case. Such a move would allow the father to drop the appeal.
The court told the father, Juan Miguel, that he could intervene but the judges also said they would not consider whether to remove Elian's great-uncle Lazaro Gonzalez from the case until May 11, when arguments in the relatives' appeal are scheduled to be heard.
Raid Leader Speaks Out
As a group of Elian's friends from Cuba arrived in the United States to help him transition back to life with his father, the INS agent who led the team that took the boy from his Miami relatives' home spoke out for the first time.
In a Nightline interview, James Goldman said he and his agents felt surrounded by a dangerous environment almost as soon as they pulled up to the Miami relatives' home.
"The first thing I saw as the van doors were sliding open was people yelling commands on the front lawn of Lazaro's home, directing people to form a human chain," Goldman said.
Goldman said that Elian's Miami relatives did not cooperate with federal marshals as they had promised if law enforcement came to take the boy. He recalled someone inside pushing a couch in front of the door after officers ordered them to open up. Meanwhile, Goldman said, protesters began
jumping over the barricades.
"It was a threatening environment," Goldman said. "It got overwhelming at a certain point. The people absolutely fought to prevent us from getting to the front door."
Explaining the need for firearms, Goldman told Nightline he and his team had reports that intelligence reports that indicated that many of the protesters outside the Miami home had prior gun convictions and may have belonged to an anti-Castro paramilitary group called Alpha 66.
Goldman also claimed that the INS had been monitoring activities in the house behind Lazaro's residence in the weeks leading up to the raid because its occupants would go back and forth to the great uncle's home at all hours of the night. According to Goldman, most of these neighbors had
criminal records for a variety of crimes.
Reno Stands Firm
At her weekly press briefing today, Attorney General Janet Reno continued to defend her decision to send armed federal agents to seize Elian early Saturday morning.
"They thought that they could ignore us," Reno said.
"We had tried to be very patient with them to effect a voluntary transfer, and then the time comes when the law must be enforced."
Reno said the predawn hours of Saturday were "the most appropriate time with the least crowd" for immigration agents to conduct the raid. "This appeared to be the safest time possible to effect the transfer," she told reporters.
During her briefing today, Reno was asked whether the decision to send armed Immigration and Naturalization Service agents into Lazaro's home was influenced by a speech Cuban President Fidel Castro had made recently in which he claimed that Lazaro was armed, and whether she would consider
information from Castro as an intelligence source she could use. Reno said she knew of no such information and refused to comment further.
The Soaring Costs
Later, Justice officials said the Elian Gonzalez case, including the raid, had cost more than $578,000 from Thanksgiving Day, when Elian was found clinging to an inner tube in the Florida Straits, through Monday. This preliminary estimate does not include the costs of the family's stay at
Andrews Air Force Base from Saturday until Tuesday.
The largest figure was $374,000 for the INS and included the cost of training and housing 131 immigration agents who participated in the raid and Elian's government airplane flight from Miami to Washington.
U.S. marshals, who provided 20 deputies for the raid and security for Elian's father in Washington and the entire family since Saturday, spent $161,000. The figures included overtime but not regular salaries, which would have been paid anyway. Other amounts were spent on legal work,
mediators and conciliators, and expenses for psychiatric consultants.
Congressional hearings on what Senate Republicans are calling "The Easter Raid" are scheduled to begin next Wednesday. Reno met with a group of senators Tuesday at the Capitol.
The Judiciary Committee is considering calling Reno, Elian's Miami family and Miami leaders involved in negotiations before the raid to testify under oath.
A federal appeals court in Atlanta will hear oral arguments May 11 on whether the youngster can seek asylum.
ABCNEWS' Beverley Lumpkin, Ann Compton and Jim Ryan, ABCNEWS.com's Maria Durand and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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