Two men convicted in January of fleeing from a Coast Guard cutter 30 miles south of Key West will each spend at least a year in federal prison, according to court documents.
Coast Guard Keys commanding officer Capt. Al Young said after the men's October arrest that he was highly suspicious that Antonio Rodriguez, a U.S. citizen, and Ricardo Gonzalez-Solorzano, a legal resident, were involved in smuggling. Both were captured on personal watercrafts outfitted with GPS, as well as extra drinking water and gas cans.
After deliberating for just 15 minutes, a jury in January convicted the men of failure to heave to. Failure to heave to is the Coast Guard version of fleeing and eluding police.
On Wednesday, Rodriguez was sentenced before U.S. District Judge Jose E. Martinez at the Sidney M. Aronovitz courthouse, 301 Simonton St., in Key West to 16 months in prison, and Gonzalez-Solorzano was sentenced to a year, according to court documents.
Both men had faced a maximum of five years. The men were accused by the Coast Guard of migrant smuggling, but were not formally charged with that crime and that accusation was not made during trial.
The men were well into the Gulf Stream when they were stopped after a 45-minute chase. In the Gulf Stream, even a one-foot chop can hinder a personal watercraft, but the Coast Guard has had cases in the past of such vessels making the run to Cuba, officials said.
They were stopped by the new fast-response cutter Margaret Norvell that is typically based in Miami, but was in Key West training.