Cuba Hijacker Gets 15-Year Sentence for 1968 Crime Tossed

The 15-year prison sentence given to an American who hijacked a jetliner to Cuba in 1968 was thrown out on appeal.

Luis Armando Pena Soltren pleaded guilty in 2010 to his part in the hijacking, which was organized by a group of Puerto Rican nationalists. A federal appeals court in New York today ruled that his sentence, imposed by U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein in 2011, was illegal because it barred the possibility of parole.

At the time of the hijacking, defendants convicted under U.S. law were eligible to be released on parole before the expiration of their sentences. Parole was eliminated in an overhaul of federal sentencing rules that took effect in 1987. The appeals court today threw out the sentence and sent the case back to Hellerstein for resentencing.

Pena Soltren, then 25, was one of three men who forced the pilots of Pan American Airways Flight 281, scheduled to fly from New York to Puerto Rico, to land in Havana, the court said. He returned to the U.S. in 2009.

The case is U.S. v. Cruz, 11-256, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (Manhattan).

To contact the reporter on this story: Bob Van Voris in New York at rvanvoris@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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