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Elian Gonzalez Case: Justice Seeking Weight of Court Order to Force Lazaro Gonzalez to Comply

Aired April 14, 2000 - 1:31 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Elian Gonzalez remains in the Miami home of his great-uncle Lazaro today. One day after Elian's Florida family ignored a Justice Department order to surrender custody, the controversy is back in court. A government motion today includes a new offer: If the Florida family surrenders the boy voluntarily, the government says it will keep Elian in the United States pending the appeal of a court decision on political asylum.

CNN Justice correspondent Pierre Thomas joins us from Washington.

Pierre, I don't think I am alone in not knowing what it all means.

PIERRE THOMAS, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, what the Justice Department is doing is pursuing that option we talked about earlier in the week, which is going to court and seeking a court order to force Lazaro Gonzalez to turn over the boy to his father. Now, if the court approves this particular order, what this would do would be to put the pressure on Lazaro Gonzalez. He would face potential contempt of court, jail time, fines. So that is the first part of what the Justice Department did today.

And as you said, they are now also saying that if he agrees to turn over the boy, they would require Elian to stay in the United States.

So, it's a double-bang approach the Justice Department is trying to use, one to say you must turn over the boy, on the other hand, the boy does not leave the country until the appeals process is over.

WATERS: But, on the other hand, are you sensing anything new from Miami? Lazaro Gonzalez essentially has said, sure, I am not going to break the law if -- we're not going to help you with this, but if you want the boy, come and get him. And that's something, apparently, the government is very unwilling to do.

THOMAS: Well, the Justice Department is preparing enforcement action to physically go and get the boy. But as you said, the Justice Department is not looking forward to doing that. They know the images that could evoke, again physically going in, getting a 6-year-old boy. They're also concerned about potential trauma to the boy.

But with this order, they are, again, seeking the weight of a court order to force Lazaro Gonzalez to comply. And they think that that may be the catalyst to finally end this very tragic situation.

WATERS: All right, CNN Justice correspondent Pierre Thomas, and the Elian watch continues from Washington, Miami, and all parts in between.

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