A day after visiting her ailing husband in prison, the wife of an American subcontractor imprisoned in Cuba begged the U.S. government on Wednesday to bring Alan Gross home, saying he is "absolutely the worst" that she's seen him during his four years behind bars.
"He is absolutely the worst. He's normally a gregarious, funny guy, but I couldn't even get a joke out of him yesterday," Judy Gross told MSNBC's Kristen Welker Wednesday in her first interview since seeing her husband on Tuesday. "I'm very worried about his emotional health. He has said he is going to do something drastic. Seeing him yesterday makes me believe that."
Judy Gross' visit to the small Cuban prison cell where Alan Gross spends 23 hours a day came a week after his mother died of lung cancer. The Cuban government refused a request for a humanitarian furlough for Alan to see his mother one final time — her dying wish — and wouldn't allow him to attend her funeral last Friday.
"Not being able to see his mother before she died really made his mental health state much worse, and I think that's why I'm seeing him the way he is physically. He's in chronic pain," Gross told MSNBC. "Yesterday he got out of the chair and almost fell on the floor because his arthritis is so bad. His legs are barely supporting him."
Alan shares his cell with two other men.
"He's lost 100 pounds, he's lost teeth. He's a mess," Gross said.
Alan was arrested and imprisoned in 2009 when he was working as a subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development, part of the State Department. He was allegedly setting up Internet access in Cuba and was sentenced to 15 years in prison for attempting to undermine the Cuban government.
Nearly a month after American Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was released from captivity in Afghanistan thanks to a Guantanamo prisoner swap, Gross begged the U.S. government to figure out a way to bring her husband home, too.
"He is an American citizen. He was working under a U.S. contract when he was arrested in Cuba, and the United States and President Obama need to do whatever it takes to bring him home," she said.
"I was happy for the Bergdahl family," she added. "I think it was an incredible feat, trading five Taliban to get him back. If the U.S. government is capable of doing something so complicated, surely they can find a way to bring Alan home as well."
Earlier Wednesday, the couple's lawyer, Scott Gilbert, said the situation had become dire.
"I am extremely worried that Alan is becoming more despondent every day," Gilbert said. "Both governments need to know that Alan plans to end his life in an effort to end this agony."
Gross said she tried to lift Alan's spirits.
"He's had so many disappointments that it's hard for him to believe anything positive that I say," she said. "Part of what he's dealing with right now is grief, and we talked about his mother's death, but honestly, I don't think there's much anyone can say to him at this point, except when he lands on U.S. soil."
First published June 25 2014, 6:54 AM