HARTFORD, Conn. – A graying Puerto Rican nationalist charged in a 1983 robbery in Connecticut is negotiating with prosecutors to try to resolve the case ahead of trial, his attorney said Monday.
The attorney for Norberto Gonzalez Claudio made the disclosure at a bond hearing in U.S. District Court in Hartford. Attorney Richard Reeve said his client could better consult with those close to him on his options if he were released from jail.
“I would report to the court there are ongoing negotiations,” Reeve said.
The judge did not immediately rule on the request for bond, which is opposed by federal prosecutors who say Gonzalez is too dangerous to be released.
Wearing a beige prison jumpsuit and a bushy white goatee, Gonzalez smiled and winked at family members as he was led into the courtroom with his hands cuffed behind his back. He has been jailed at a Rhode Island prison since last May, when the FBI found him living under an assumed name in a small town in central Puerto Rico.
Gonzalez was one of the last two remaining fugitives in the 1983 robbery of $7 million from a Wells Fargo armored car depot in West Hartford, Conn. The crime was orchestrated by Los Macheteros, a group that claimed responsibility for robberies, murders and bombings in the 1970s and ’80s in the name of Puerto Rican independence.
Gonzalez is not accused of participating directly in the heist, which was the largest cash robbery in U.S. history at the time. He has pleaded not guilty to federal charges including bank robbery, conspiracy and transportation of stolen money.
An older brother, Avelino Gonzalez Claudio, was arrested in 2008 in Puerto Rico and struck a deal with prosecutors. He is serving a seven-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to his role in the heist.
Thomas Carson, a spokesman for Connecticut’s U.S. attorney, declined to comment on the status of any plea negotiations in the case of Norberto Gonzalez.
In the request for bond, Reeve said Gonzalez could be released into the custody of a son who lives in Stratford, Conn. He said Gonzalez has no interest in returning to life as a fugitive, and he would not jeopardize the financial situation of family members and supporters who are offering to put up equity in their homes to secure his bond.
Reeve also said Gonzalez would be more comfortable discussing options in his case if he were not confined in a prison where his conversations are recorded.
In opposition to the request, prosecutors said he was a leader of the militant independence group, lived as a fugitive for a quarter century and had three loaded guns by his bed when he was arrested.
The robbery was allegedly carried out by Victor Manuel Gerena, a Wells Fargo driver recruited by Los Macheteros, and authorities say other members of the group helped to smuggle the money out of the United States. Prosecutors have said they believe the money was used to finance bombings and attacks in their push for independence for the U.S. Caribbean territory.