Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Tampa couple accused of kidnapping their two young boys and sailing with them to Cuba wrote a letter to the Cuban government accusing U.S. officials of trying to control Americans’ minds with chemicals spread from airplanes.

That revelation came from documents the Tampa Bay Times obtained last week after a judge ordered disclosure of discovery material in the criminal case against Joshua and Sharyn Hakken.

The documents chart the events that took the Hakkens, college-educated engineers, from a quiet neighborhood north of MacDill Air Force Base to a cramped sailboat moored west of Havana.

They also show a pattern of paranoia that could become the basis for a mental illness defense.

According to the Times, the documents show that the Hakkens wrote a three-page letter to the Cuban government asking for political asylum because they could not return to the United States safely.

They claimed they had uncovered through their jobs that U.S. officials were secretly trying to control Americans’ minds.

“After these discoveries … we were subjected to multiple attacks from our own government,” the Hakkens wrote. “These attacks included surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA), hacking of our personal computers, microwave radiation weapons attacks, drugging of our food, false imprisonments and the kidnapping of our two small children.

The Hakkens are charged in Hillsborough County Circuit Court with kidnapping their boys, 5-year-old Cole and 3-year-old Chase, from their grandparents’ home after a court stripped their parental rights.

According to the Times, the Hakkens claim to have met with a Cuban attorney, but it isn’t clear whether they delivered their asylum letter to any foreign officials. The Cuban government handed over the couple to U.S. officials in April.

The documents suggest the couple subscribed to several anti-government conspiracy theories that are popular among right-wing extremists, according to the Times.

“These are people who are mentally unbalanced, who are attracted, perhaps because of their personal paranoia, to conspiracy theories,” law professor Mark Fenster told the Times.

Fenster is a professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law and author of Conspiracy Theories: Secrecy and Power in American Culture.