BALTIMORE STANDING TOGETHER: Watch town hall Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. on WJZ, as leaders address issues the city is facing.
By Mike Hellgren

BETHESDA, Md. (WJZ) — Right now, a Maryland man may be dying in a Cuban jail, part of an unfolding international drama.  The U.S. government contractor is desperately appealing a 15-year sentence for trying to overthrow the Castro regime.

Mike Hellgren takes you inside the case of Alan Gross, who claims he’s innocent but is caught in a political nightmare.

Alan Gross went from a comfortable life in the Maryland suburbs to living a nightmare, locked in a Cuban prison after the government there branded the aid worker a spy.

His family now fears he could die inside that Communist jail.

“Alan has done nothing wrong and we need him home,” said his wife, Judy Gross.

Depending on who you believe, Gross was either working on a secret government mission to bring democracy to Cuba or simply a humanitarian who’d helped the needy in more than 50 countries and clung to his blue-collar Baltimore roots. 

The most harrowing journey of Gross’ life began almost three years ago.  The United States was offering big money to provide Internet access to Havana’s Jewish community.

“I’ve known Alan for about 30 years,” said Rabbi David Schneyer.

It’s a cause his rabbi says was dear to Alan’s heart.

“He loves his culture and the Jewish people,” Schneyer said.  “It is not fair to him and to his family that he…that his family should be going through this.”

Gross worked for Development Alternatives, a company based in Bethesda.  They scored a multi-million dollar contract with the government and knew exactly the man they wanted in Cuba. 

Gross went back and forth, bringing in satellite equipment and setting up computer stations.  The frequent trips quickly caught the attention of Cuban authorities, who believed the good Samaritan act was a front to overthrow their government.

But Deborah Mulhern, who’s known Gross for years, says he’s no spy.

“He was a big, burly guy, very funny, always smiling,” she said.  “He’s extremely, extremely intelligent.”

She says if there was an international plot unfolding, Alan Gross was an innocent pawn.

“It wasn’t like he was naive, like he didn’t understand.  It was more…there was some agenda that they had that he would have no way of knowing,” Mulhern said.

After a trial—which the U.S. denounced as a sham—the Cubans sentenced Gross to 15 years behind bars, drawing stinging criticism from the most powerful in Washington.

“We call on the government of Cuba to release him,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson told WJZ he’s pushing for Gross’ freedom to right a terrible wrong.

“Our appeal here is a high moral, emotional principal,” Jackson said.

Maryland Representative Chris Van Hollen says, bottom line, a man’s life is at stake.

“Alan Gross has lost over 90 pounds,” Van Hollen said.  “The Cuban government so far has been obstinate and outrageous.”

Not only is Alan suffering, his mother and daughter were recently diagnosed with cancer.

“It’s very difficult.  Our hearts are with the family and we wish we could do more,” Schneyer said.  “I keep hope alive because there’s not much of a choice.”

Former President Jimmy Carter recently met with Gross in prison.

“I did not come with the expectation of bringing him home.  The Cuban officials made it very clear to me before I left my home that the freedom of Alan Gross would not be granted,” Carter said.

With his health getting worse by the day, his family’s pleas are growing more urgent to bring Alan back to Maryland before it’s too late.

“Alan is an incredibly loving father.  His daughters miss him terribly,” Judy Gross said.  “We need him home.”

Gross’ wife recently sent Cuban President Raul Castro a Passover message, asking him to free her husband as a “genuine gesture to the Jewish community around the world.” 

Gross’ U.S. lawyer has filed an appeal with Cuba’s Supreme Court that is pending consideration by the judges.

Comments (15)
  1. sheriff says:

    Moral of this story:……..Don’t go where you’re not wanted. Disobey & Fidel will make you pay the price. I’m sure Raul Castro will be touched by the sob story his wife sent. Probably wipe his a$$ with the paper.

  2. PAUL E. MICELLI says:


    1. Bullfrog says:

      First of all, the article is not talking about around the world, it is talking about an American from Baltimore, Maryland. This man’s intentions were to help a community not to create some sneaky espionage. With work so hard to find and offers from our government with great pay to help out in other countries, people want to jump on the band wagon and work for good pay for their families even at the risk of putting their own lives in danger. Shame on Cuba for not giving this man a fair chance with family and friends to prove his innocence. This man never said he didn’t like it here, he was trying to help a country/community that needed help. Mr. Gross was of the same faith as the people in Havana and wanted to do a good deed for good pay and for that he is probably going to die, THIS IS A OUTRAGOUS!

  3. pigeon says:

    And to think our government wants to open travel and trade with Cuba. How many drains does the government wish to flush down the USA?! Dah!

  4. Pablo says:

    @ Paul…That comment is a disgrace to the American People…This guys is a prisoner for no wrong doing…Yes there are tons of people suffering but so is this AMERICAN who was over there trying to do good…If this was in any other country they government would step in quicker…Castro is a cruel and inhuman person..My parents escaped there over 45 years ago..LEGALLY…The govt is only going top open up travel there if major changes are made..hence why it has not been done yet…

  5. Lourdes says:

    I think the US should do everything in their power to bring Alan Gross home.
    My prayers to him and his family.

  6. Mr Gene says:

    this is typical of what can happen to you when you go to Cuba….any excuse to
    to put an American (SPY?) in jail…what could he possibly find out what we dont
    already know…its a Communist Country with a Dictator who is never wrong
    Poor guy probably thought he was gonna make a difference and belongs to the
    “locked up abroad club” ….eventually if his family can come up with a sizeable amount of bribe money they will let him free for humanitarian reason …probably
    about 1 miliion reason’s

  7. ron says:

    @sheriff llol man you are funny, i cant help but laugh at you. your true ignorance shows everyday on your post so everyone know’s that you are trash. the way you talk on here i can tell you are very uneducated. so anymore racist rants you want to post on here.

    1. whatnow says:

      And your’s doesn’t. Always calling everyone who disagrees with you trailer trash and hillbillys. You don’t think that is offensive. Travel to some offbeat places in this country, the trailer trash and hillbillys you so disparage, and you will meet some of the nicest, most honest and decent people you could ever hope to meet.

  8. ron says:

    lol man you are funny. we are sitting in class laughing at this hill billy lls

  9. Doug says:

    You don’t go to a communist country and ruffle feathers,fool.
    Where were you off to next?
    Must be bi-polar,a raving lunatic or both.
    in any event ,enjoy your jail time.

  10. Dave says:

    Working for a secret US organization and sneaking things into a foreign country? How hard is it to figure out that this is just a CIA agent or operative that got caught?

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