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Dengrove Collection Writeup

FALN bomb-maker, William Morales on Trial

U.S. v. Morales, 460 F. Supp. 666 (E.D.N.Y. 1978)

The FALN, or Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional Puertorriqueña, was a terrorist organization dedicated to securing Puerto Rico’s independence. From 1974 to 1983, the FALN claimed responsibility for over 120 bombings on American soil.

On July 12, 1978, FALN member William Morales was building a bomb in a Queens apartment when the device exploded, blowing off both of his hands, destroying one eye, and damaging part of his face. He was taken to the hospital in critical condition while police found 66 sticks of dynamite and 200 pounds of bomb-making material, at the time the largest cache of explosives recovered in New York City.

The following April, Justice Kenneth Browne sentenced Morales to multiple consecutive sentences. Morales said, “They’re not going to hold me forever.”

He was right. On May 21, 1979, Morales escaped from Bellevue Hospital, where doctors had intended to fit him with prosthetic hands. Susan Tipograph, a well-known radical attorney, allegedly smuggled Morales a pair of bolt cutters, which he tied to the ends of his arms and used to cut through a screen. He then climbed down three stories on a rope made from bandages.

Morales next emerged in Mexico. He joined another rebel group, got arrested again, and spent five years in a Mexican prison. When he was released in 1988, Mexican officials let Morales abscond to Cuba rather than face extradition.