A U.S. government contractor sentenced to 15 years prison reached out from prison in Havana to plead for help on Friday.
"Get me the hell out of here," Brian Gross said, using his one phone call for the week to reach out to a reporter rather than his family.
The Maryland native, who has served two and a half years, was convicted of crimes against the state for bringing satellite and other communications equipment onto the island as part of a USAID-funded democracy-building program. Cuba considers such programs an attempt to destabilize the government.
"It is no longer about Cuban-U.S. relations," Gross said. "It's about my family and me."
Gross gets one call a week, and usually he reserves that for his wife, Judy, but this week he called a reporter instead because he wanted to get the word out about his plight.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., was allowed to visit Gross at the prison on Feb. 24, and he later met with Cuban President Raul Castro to seek his release.
Leahy said Castro agreed that Gross "was no spy" The Associated Press reported.
Gross spoke virtually no Spanish and traveled to Cuba five times under his own name before his arrest in December 2009, according to AP.
But Leahy came home with little optimism for Gross' release.
The Gross affair has chilled relations between the U.S. and Cuba, diminishing chances for near-term rapprochement.
More world news from msnbc.com and NBC News:
- Sudan leader says he will teach independent South a 'final lesson by force'
- Joint Chiefs' leader: US will not send troops to Syria
- What exactly is 'Hand Shredded Ass Meat'?
- 'Burlesconi' sex scandal comes full circle
- Outrage over video of alleged rape of disabled girl
- Vietnam pleads for help as mystery disease kills 19, sickens 171
- US Black Hawk helicopter with four crew members crashes in Afghanistan
Follow us on Twitter: @msnbc_world