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Fugitive Pair Sentenced in Explosives Case

May 10, 1995

CHICAGO (AP) _ Nine years of good deeds could not save former fugitives Claude Marks and Donna Willmott from prison sentences for a 1985 plot to provide a Puerto Rican independence group with explosives.

On Tuesday, Marks received a six-year prison sentence and a $1,000 fine. Willmott got three years and a $500 fine.

The two surrendered last December and pleaded guilty in February to a conspiracy to transport explosives for use by the Armed Forces of National Liberation, known by the initials of its name in Spanish, FALN.

Prosecutors said the explosives were to be used to blow up part of Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary in Kansas and free FALN leader Oscar Lopez. The plan was foiled when authorities learned of it.

``What I did 10 years ago, I would not do now,″ Marks, 46, told U.S. District Judge William T. Hart. ``I’m glad no harm came to anyone.″

Willmott, 44, said that ``a desire for a more just and humane society has influenced many of my choices.″

``But I made errors in judgment about how political change can be effected,″ she said.

Prosecutors described Marks and Willmott as former members of the radical group Weather Underground.

The courtroom was packed with supporters who came to know the defendants during the years they led peaceable, middle-class lives in Pittsburgh while on the FBI’s most-wanted list.

Marks and Willmott both married and started separate families, using assumed names and telling neighbors and friends that they were cousins.

Marks worked as a building contractor, coached Little League and produced a video documentary to promote literacy. He and his wife had two children.

``He and his wife’s values meshed with the type of values we wanted our children to have _ nonviolence and respect for other people,″ a friend, Jack Patzer, said.

Willmott, who had a daughter, worked as a baby sitter, receptionist and computer instructor for elderly people, and was a volunteer for an AIDS group.

The plea agreement indicated the two didn’t necessarily know of the planned prison escape, but they did admit knowing the explosives would be used by a group committed to damaging property.

In 1985, Marks met an undercover FBI agent on a remote bayou near Baton Rouge, La., and paid him $5,000 for what he thought was 37 pounds of plastic explosives.

He and Willmott then took the explosives to California by car and bus, holding them for the FALN. They went into hiding when they realized the government knew of the plot.

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