3 plead guilty to planning editor’s murder
NEW YORK — Three people pleaded guilty to helping arrange the execution-style murder of New York journalist Manuel de Dios Unanue, who was shot to death in March 1992 on the order of a Colombian drug lord, according to newspaper reports and court papers unsealed in late October.
At the request of federal prosecutors, U.S. District Judge Edward R. Korman unsealed the transcript of the guilty plea and information filed about the charges. Earlier, they had asked that the pleas be sealed because of an ongoing investigation of Guillermo Leon Restrepo Gaviria and to “protect the safety of certain persons,” according to the papers.
On Sept. 15, John Mena pleaded guilty to participating in the plot to kill the journalist, and distributing $50,000 among conspirators, the New York Times reported. He also pleaded guilty to intent to distribute cocaine.
Juan Carlos Velasco and his wife, Elizabeth Castano also pleaded guilty to helping plan the murder, the Times reported.
Authorities say the leader of a Colombian drug cartel ordered the death of de Dios, former editor of El Diario la Prensa, the Times reported. The cartel leader was angry about articles about drug traffickers in a Spanish-language magazine based in New York that de Dios published, the Times reported. De Dios was murdered execution-style at a restaurant in Queens on March 11, 1992, the Times reported.
Restrepo, identified by the Times as a top lieutenant in the cartel, communicated to Mena the order to have de Dios killed, the papers allege.
The court papers assert that Restrepo has “learned that he is being sought” and has fled from Cali, Colombia.
The prosecutors asked that the papers be unsealed because they will have to make the documents available to the lawyer for defendant Wilson Alejandro Mejia Velez, who has been charged as the gunman and was scheduled to stand trial in the U.S. District Court in Brooklyn on Nov. 8.