For more than 10 years, ever since Florida attorney Magda Montiel Davis was caught on video kissing Fidel Castro and expressing admiration for the Cuban dictator, she has been persona non grata in Miami's Cuban-American community.
And now that she could possibly be disbarred for allegedly fabricating evidence and asking a witness to commit perjury in a Cuba-related child custody case, Miami Cubans are prematurely popping the champagne bottles they had reserved to celebrate Castro's much-anticipated death. They say it couldn't have happened to a more deserving Castro-lover.
"You are my teacher," Montiel Davis told Castro when she attended a 1994 conference in Havana.
And now it may turn out that she really learned from her so-called "teacher."
Castro, himself an attorney, has made a mockery of the Cuban judicial system. And Montiel Davis is apparently trying to turn an American court into a three-ring circus.
This student has learned well.
In a Miami-Dade County Courthouse, Montiel Davis is one of two attorneys representing Rafael Izquierdo, a Cuban farmer trying to regain custody of his 4-year-old daughter in order to take her back to Cuba. It's a case that evokes strong passions in South Florida, because it reminds Cuban-Americans of the custody battle over Elian Gonzalez, the Cuban boy incomprehensibly sent back to the Communist island with his Castro-manipulated father by the Clinton administration.
In this case, the girl came to the United States in 2005 with her mother, Elena Perez, who later lost custody of her daughter and teen son after trying to commit suicide. (Her son's custody is not in dispute because he has a different father.)
Attorneys for the Florida Department of Children and Families have argued that the girl's father is unfit to raise the child because he failed to protect her from her unstable and abusive mother. They want the child to remain with a South Florida foster family that has cared for her for the past 18 months.
During the course of the trial, the mother, who wants the child to go with her father, had testified that Izquierdo had sent her several letters from Cuba, inquiring about the child's welfare.
But then, the Miami Herald reported, during intensive cross-examination the sobbing mother dropped a bombshell that could cost Montiel Davis her license to practice law in Florida.
"I tried to twist things around to favor the father," Perez said. "The letters [from Cuba] do not exist." She added they were fabricated by Montiel Davis, and that the lawyer and Izquierdo asked her to commit perjury by testifying that they were legitimate.
When Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jeri B. Cohen, who is presiding over the case, asked the distraught mother why she was changing her story and admitting she lied, Perez said her own lawyer told her it is illegal to lie under oath, and "that the name of the crime is perjury and that it conveyed time in jail."
The mother argued that her lies really didn't matter, because "pieces of paper do not show who he [Izquierdo] is. He's a good father."
But to Montiel Davis, it could really matter.
While the controversial lawyer denied the fabrication, the judge said she would let the Florida Bar Association decide what to do with the allegations against Montiel Davis.
"It is very serious, if it's true, for his [Izquierdo's] lawyer," the judge said.
In Miami's Little Havana, that was enough to begin the celebrations and the calls for a bar association investigation of Montiel Davis. After all, this is the lawyer Cuban-Americans love to hate.
Many believe Montiel Davis is acting as an agent of the Cuban government and that, as in the Elian Gonzalez case, Izquierdo's trip to Florida has been financed and manipulated by Castro's Machiavellian regime. They say that Izquierdo fathered his 4-year-old daughter during an adulterous relationship with Perez, because he is already married and has another 6-year-old daughter in Cuba.
In South Florida, bloggers are anxiously anticipating not only Castro's demise, but also the disbarment of Montiel Davis, who is reportedly writing a book titled "The Kiss," about her affectionate encounter with the dictator and how it made her an outcast among her fellow Cuban-Americans.
"Anyone who considers Fidel Castro a great teacher must be a devout student of murder, torture, emasculation of human rights, a complete disregard for the dignity of man," wrote a blogger on a Miami Herald web page. "Being proud of kissing a man like Castro is like being proud of kissing Stalin, Hitler, or Satan himself."
To find out more about Miguel Perez and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.