A Venezuealan court stopped short of handing down the maximum sentence to two former United States Army Special Forces soldiers for their role in a botched raid last May that didn't get past the beach after they were apprehended disembarking from boats.
Luke Denman and Airan Berry, who previously described they'd been hired and trained to lead the Venezuelan people in an armed coup by ex-Green Beret Jordan Goudreau and his private, Florida-based security firm Silvercorp USA, have each received 20-years in prison by a Caracas court.
Each was facing a maximum of 30 years for the bizarre operation which grabbed headlines at the time, and left the Trump administration on the defensive, saying the US had nothing to do with the half-baked military operation doomed to failure from the beginning.
Venezuelan officials and media said they confessed. "They admitted their responsibility for the facts," the country's chief prosecutor Tarek William Saab said Friday.
They were found guilty of charges including terrorism, conspiracy, and illicit arms trafficking. The FBI has reportedly been investigating Jordan Goudreau, said to be laying low in Florida, for his role in the fiasco.
Days after the Americans were paraded in front of Venezuelan TV cameras, President Trump said in a Fox News interview: “If I wanted to go into Venezuela, I wouldn’t make a secret about it. I wouldn’t send a small little group, it’d be called an Army,” and again denied that it was an official or sanctioned op on any level.
20 years of prison sentence to Luke Denman and Airan Berry, two US ex green-berets who came by sea, from Colombia, to kill Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. @MinpublicoVE pic.twitter.com/BomLdf8fdi— Érika Ortega Sanoja (@ErikaOSanoja) August 8, 2020
Indeed all evidence which emerged later appeared to point to a poor-planned "rogue" effort by a group of mercenaries working with Venezuelan dissidents.
Since then there's been limited diplomatic efforts to obtain the release of Denman and Berry, but to know avail.
The State Department has appeared cool on the whole matter, also given it was deeply embarrassing to the United States, and given it gave the Maduro government greater negotiating leverage, considering they now have two American citizens being held for what all agree are legitimate crimes.