Drug War Goes on Trial

Mexican Banker Sues 'Narco News'

According to Giordano, Akin Gump then launched a "cyber-attack" on Narco News, sending e-mails that took up more than 10 megabytes of storage space and caused his list server to shut down. Last week, Giordano says, Akin Gump went so far as to send a threatening letter to Voxel.net, his Internet service provider.

McLish denies threatening legal action against Voxel (which as a Web host is not liable for defamatory content). "The suggestion that Akin Gump is engaged in cyber-war is nonsense, and Mr. Giordano knows it," fumes the lawyer. "He should just come out of hiding and accept service of the complaint."

Giordano has sought advice from Thomas Lesser, a Massachusetts lawyer who put the CIA on trial in 1987, in the course of defending Abbie Hoffman and Amy Carter on a campus protest charge. Lesser calls the Banamex suit a "heavy-handed attempt to silence criticism." No one on the defense team understands why Akin Gump brought this suit in New York, where the allegations are likely to attract more publicity. Says Garbus, "They're shooting themselves in the foot."

But Giordano sees the case as a golden opportunity to exercise his skills as a pro se defender, if he so chooses. "I'm looking forward to deposing Hernández," he says. "In the long run, this will be an educational process for the public that will reveal information about the atrocity of the drug war and how it's being waged by the U.S. government and its friends in Latin America."

One more twist: The judge assigned to the case is Harold Baer, who was pilloried in 1996 when he threw out a car search in Washington Heights even though it had turned up 80 pounds of heroin and cocaine. If the case proceeds, it could reach Baer's courthouse in Manhattan by this time next year. Tom Lesser predicts,"it's going to be a long, interesting trial."

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