BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. – A Cuban migrant who came ashore Hollywood Beach this summer with a group of others was sentenced Wednesday to a year and a day in federal prison for obstruction of boarding.
Lazaro Mora Gutierrez was originally facing two counts of assault against a federal officer after authorities said he threatened a federal agent with a machete.
However, video presented during the trial did not show that Mora Gutierrez used a knife in a threatening manner.
According to a criminal complaint, the U.S. Coast Guard spotted the group June 25 aboard a homemade boat that was powered by a four-cylinder Honda outboard motor near the Dania Beach pier and attempted to stop it.
Authorities said the migrants, 10 men and a woman, were armed with knives, machetes and other weapons, and were making threatening gestures toward law enforcement.
According to the complaint, a marine interdiction agent with U.S. Customs and Border Protection ordered the migrants to turn off the motor and put their hands in the air, but his commands were ignored.
Agents said one migrant threw a machete at the CBP boat, but no agents were injured.
At the same time, Mora Gutierrez was wrestling with another person on the boat while attempting to stab himself, agents said.
The CBP agent reached over his boat to look inside the migrants' boat to get a better view of the person who threw a machete at them, when Mora Gutierrez took multiple swings at the agent with a machete, the complaint said.
The agent ordered Mora Gutierrez to drop the machete and put his hands in the air.
Authorities said Mora Gutierrez dropped the machete, but grabbed another knife and again tried to stab himself.
Multiple attempts to stop the boat by the Coast Guard, CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement were unsuccessful.
The migrants eventually made it to shore, where they were handcuffed by Hollywood police and U.S. Border Patrol officers.
Mora Gutierrez was the only migrant who was arrested.
A judge ordered that the prison sentence be followed by two years of supervised release and Mora Gutierrez must turn himself in to immigration officials upon his release from prison.
It's unclear whether Mora Gutierrez will be repatriated to Cuba after his release. His cousins attended Wednesday's sentencing and said that they while they're disappointed in the outcome, they believe Mora Gutierrez is innocent.
"I think he's innocent and he'll soon be free," one woman said. "For us, it's bad."
Fines in the case were waived because of Mora Gutierrez's inability to pay.