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San Diego

Amid extra security measures and a gallery packed with observers, jurors heard opening statements Thursday in the trial of one of the Cuban men accused of holding a guard hostage last year at the downtown Metropolitan Correctional Center.

A jury will decide the fate of 33-year-old Ramon Alvarez. He and Emilio Bravo are accused of using homemade knives to hold Donnie Houston hostage Dec. 17.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Maria Arroyo-Tabin told the panel that the two men, who were awaiting trial on drug charges, conspired to escape from maximum security.

Videotape of the alleged escape attempt will be shown to jurors, the prosecutor said.

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Alvarez’s defense is based on the claim that he was under the spell of Bravo, who practiced witchcraft in the cell the two men shared.

Furthermore, defense attorneys said the two men will testify that another guard initiated a fight with Bravo just before the hostage stand-off.

Bravo, who has been convicted twice for murder, was granted a separate trial Tuesday, but the new date has not been set.


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