WASHINGTON, DC—After more than 30 years spent hiding in the Los Angeles underground as wanted criminals, the members of the crack commando unit Alpha Team, commonly known as the A-Team, were cleared of all charges brought against them by the U.S. military, an army official announced Monday.
"In 1972, we arrested the members of the A-Team for a crime they swore they didn't commit," Gen. Stephen Lupo said. "They broke out of our maximum-security stockade, and from that moment forth, I thought of nothing but their recapture. However, a recent audit of their file has revealed that the arrest of the Alpha Force members was made in error. The U.S. military deeply regrets the mistake."
According to Lupo, the A-Team members' exoneration will occur before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces on Aug. 24.
Just hours after Lupo's announcement was made, Cpt. H.M. "Howlin' Mad" Murdock, the A-Team's pilot, resurfaced to speak with journalist Amy Allen, who often reported on the mercenaries' charitable acts.
"For decades, we've been forced to live in the shadows," Murdock said. "Somehow, we always found a way to help people who had nowhere else to turn, but we operated under the constant threat of recapture. Finally, the nightmare is over."
Added Murdock: "Owooohh, I'm a little doggie! Ow ow owooohhhh!"
Murdock and the surviving members of the team—the classically handsome Lt. Templeton Arthur "Face" Peck and the Mohawk-sporting mechanic, Sgt. Bosco "B.A." Baracus—said their joy over the announcement was tempered only by regret that their de-facto leader, Col. John "Hannibal" Smith, was not alive to see their names cleared.
"Somewhere up there, Hannibal is smiling down on us—maybe disguised as a giant crocodile or a wealthy diamond merchant," Peck said. "He loved it when a plan come together."
"More than any of us, he would have enjoyed seeing the look on [Col. Roderick] Decker's face when our innocence was announced," Peck continued. "Decker hated Hannibal ever since they served together back in 'Nam. Decker never could stand his cocky attitude."
Smith was gunned down in front of a Las Vegas casino in 1994.
The A-Team members said that, although they presume the army's offer of freedom is legitimate, they have taken precautions.
"We formed a backup plan in case things turn out to be on the jazz," Peck said, using the team's code phrase for a troublesome situation. "Murdock's gonna perch a helicopter on top of the courtroom. B.A. found a broken Howitzer in a junkyard, got it working again, and got it mounted in our van. We also have a whole team of troubled teens B.A. befriended and taught valuable lessons. They placed explosives throughout the courtroom and along our subterranean escape route. If need be, they'll blow that courtroom apart."
Peck admitted that their escape plan might be too crazy to work, acknowledging the possibility that he will be punched in the face during the escape. He also noted that stacks of cardboard boxes might break the falls of the military personnel thrown into the air by the A-Team's explosives.
"Just to be safe, I romanced a beautiful court stenographer and convinced her to smuggle some smoke bombs in with her," Peck said. "All in a day's work."
Lupo said he expects an uneventful trial, explaining that, as restitution for the military's mistake—a typo which attributed crimes committed by the H-Team to the A-Team—the court will award Peck, Murdock, and Baracus honorable discharges, a written apology from Decker, and 32 years' back pay.
Murdock said his primary concern at present is getting Baracus to fly from L.A. to Washington, D.C. for the trial.
"He keeps calling me a 'crazy foo' for trying to get him to fly," Murdock said. "I told him the chance of the plane crashing into a field of rednecks harassing a religious group was very slim. I'm thinking that if we drug his milk, we can get him on the plane."
Baracus said that he has big plans for his settlement.
"For the last 30 years I've been a soldier of fortune," Baracus said. "Now, I'm going to take the money and do something for the kids. I'm gonna start a gym. A gym for the kids. For a long time, that's been my dream. But I couldn't open one with [Gen. Hunt] Stockwell on our tail. He'd use a tank to send shells through the side of it."
Added Baracus: "I pity the fool that tries to blow up my gymnasium now!"
While the original members of the A-Team have been exonerated, the same cannot be said for Frankie "Dishpan" Santana, a special-effects expert who helped the team escape Stockwell's clutches in 1986. Santana, who remains charged with dereliction of duty, desertion, and insubordination, spoke with reporters from a holding pen at Fort Bragg.
"I suppose it would be too much to ask the guys to break me out now that they're finally legit," Santana said. "If I'm lucky, maybe they'll put me in a cell that has a blowtorch in it for some reason, or air ducts large enough to crawl through. Or maybe they'll just do a sloppy job of guarding me—but that may be too much to ask."
Within hours of his interview, Santana escaped using a blowtorch to open the cell's air ducts while the guards were having lunch in a different room. His whereabouts are currently unknown.