Six months of fresh air

Opinion.

Six months ago, I walked out of La Modelo, the maximum security prison in Nicaragua infamous for rampant human rights violations. Six months ago, I returned to Seattle, Washington where my family and friends welcomed me with open arms and hearts. Six months ago, I was given back my freedom after nearly two years of wrongful detention and imprisonment for crimes I did not commit. These past six months have gone by in a blink of an eye. Time moves at a break-neck speed out here in the world of the living, compared to when you are staring at the same four concrete walls everyday holding onto hope by a thread.

 Since my release, I have felt a sense of urgency to make up for lost time.  There is so much I want to accomplish in this life, yet tomorrow is promised to no one.  My first priority was getting my son, Jabu, into a permanent and safe school. The school is providing Jabu with resources for his disabilities, and he gets up every morning before I do, excited to get on the bus with his new friends.  It always amazes me how resilient kids are; however, I know he is harboring painful emotions from two years of pain and anxiety being away from his dad and watching his family being torn apart. He seems to be scared of everything now; before he had no fear. 

My second priority was getting my wife into English classes. In order to integrate into the American culture, and eventually use her Nica law degree in the U.S., learning the language is a must. She is motivated because our son now speaks more English than she does! It is difficult for my wife to be separated from her family and country, but she continues to press on for the sake of our family.

I, too, have gone back to school and just finished my first quarter in graduate school.  I am studying for my graduate degree in sustainability to continue the work I began in Nicaragua in the field of sustainable development—skills for which I am growing ever more thankful as I gain a new perspective on how much the people of Nicaragua taught me. It feels good to be back in academia, but it was a challenge to pay attention during classes after two years locked in 12’ x 15’ cell with nine other people where all you do is try to block out everyone else. Pure motivation has won out and resulted in scores in the top percentile of the class. It just goes to show you how much stronger the mind is than the body.

Despite the strides I have made to put my life back together, I cannot—and will never—forget the nightmare of my wrongful conviction and the many innocent victims who continue to live the horror.  Consequently, my sister, Janis, and I continue to speak at law schools, churches, and organizations around the country to raise awareness about the case and the legal reform so badly needed in Nicaragua, the U.S., and around the world. 

My life was destroyed; my body was broken; but my heart is healing. Six months of freedom will do that to a guy.

In November 2010, Jason Puracal, a former Peace Corps volunteer and realtor in San Juan del Sur, was arrested and later sentenced to 22 years in a Nicaraguan prison on charges of money laundering, drug trafficking and organized crime. In September 2012, the Appeals Court of Granada absolved Puracal of all charges and he was whisked back to the United States.

 

 

  • http://polylabel.com Fred

    I have followed your situation from the start and still find it so hard to believe how the Nicaraguan Legal system let you down. Mind you Nicaraguan Legal system is an oxymoron in and of itself.

    Congratulations on getting your life back together and family facing a bright future.

    Perhaps one day when things change for the better you’ll receive a full apology from Nicaraguan Government but don’t hold your breath for it to happen anytime soon.

  • http://www.youhavenorightshere.com Paul Ciceri

    It has been almost 12 years since I was released from a prison in the U.A.E. where I spent 33 months under similar circumstances. I can relate to the rights abuses and (lack of a decent) legal system about which you speak. Congratulations for getting out. What helped me most get over it all was that I wrote down what happened in a book and now all the information is there and not subconsciously having to be remembered in my head. It’s a great way to let it all go. Sounds like you’re going to be okay. Again, congratulations on your freedom.

    Oh, by the way I bought retirement property in Nicaragua! Your story gives me pause to wonder.

  • Alejandra

    Congratulations to you, Jason! You and your family are an example to all of us that no matter how dire and hopeless a situation may seem (and be in actuality), some kind of solution can always be found, with herculean effort and support from others. We are so delighted that you left hell behind and are mending and flourishing. Best of luck to you and your sweet family.

  • donna tabor

    So glad to know that you and your sister are turning your nightmare into something of value to the rest of the world by continue to speaking out about this atrocity. Your years of incarceration were not wasted. I wish the very best to you and your family.

  • Carlos Briones

    I intend not justify wrongful persecution/detention nor defend the obviously broken Nicaraguan legal system, but one issue has always puzzled me about Puracal’s case. Why? Why was he detained and dragged through the courts on a flimsy “misunderstanding of real estate closing procedure” when it only involved a nominal amount? (C10,000, I believe). To even the most unsophisticated, let alone law professionals such as those involved, the real estate issue could have been easily dispatched and the case dropped. But his case was vigorously prosecuted, with pressure coming from the U.S., and even among some prominent Nicaraguans that it be dismissed. So, it begs to ask: was Puracal involved in a disputed real estate deal? In reading recent news reports, an Italian was recently thrown out (no pun intended) of Nicaragua and the underlined issue there was a land dispute. In the Puracal case I also read his vehicle had some evidence of mariguana, but that was decidedly resolved. So no drugs, no money laundering, no political agenda – and no ulterior motive? Why?

    • John Shepard

      I have to gently correct Fred: The oxymoron isn’t “Nicaraguan Legal”; it’s “Nicaraguan Justice” that provides the oxymoron. Kind of like “Gentle Pedophile” or “Acceptable Torture”.

      It WOULD be nice if someone were to explain what really happened, perhaps name some names. A few have hinted, but no one wants to really explain what motivated Jason’s arrest and imprisonment.

      I understand the risk to Scarleth’s extended family still in Nicaragua that might come with those disclosures. And that begs the question, how much better off is present day Nicaragua under Ortega than it was under Somoza? Isn’t this the stuff of all the Somoza era stories of abuse by the Guardia Nacional ? What’s changed ?

  • gunner

    To its credit, the American Legion here petitioned the U. S. Embassy both by mail and in person in this case. The results were not encouraging. At this moment there is another man in the Granada jail on rather dubious charges. An investigative report would be a blessing as when one foreigner is judicially abused it means the same thing could happen to any of us.

  • daddy-yo

    At this point Mr. Puracal, it is difficult to watch you making press on your unfortunate experiences, without also hearing from others, preferably Nicaraguans, involved in your case.

    I realize this is a “blog” atop news but this continuance lacks journalistic balance.

  • Ben

    Good for you, Jason. We were all pulling for you. So glad you could hang on.

  • Ken

    My heart goes out to you, and I wish you well, but I’m frankly still with Carlos in looking for the smoking gun. While I have limited faith in the Nica judicial system (call that close to zero), I can’t believe that Nicas are arbitrarily corrupt or that yanquis are automatically innocent. I need some rational explanation and hard evidence to take a side.

    Not helping you (with me at least) is the Volz saga. I read his book and was stunned that it couldn’t convince me that he was innocent. I would guess he was, as I would guess you were, but the alternative smoking gun theory Volz supplies is hardly believable. Yet there was no end to the Volz supporters crying miscarriage of justice. Absent to me is any explanation for why you would have been sentenced in the first place.

    Mind, assuming you are innocent, please ignore people like me and move on with your life. I’m not here assuming your guilt and with luck you have better things to do than to appease me. But since your case does raise important questions about arbitrary incarceration in Nicaragua, including of foreigners, I am curious.

    • Carlos Briones

      I would not endeavor in comparing the Volz case with Purcal’s. Statistically, 85% murders involving relationships are carried on by the significant other. Parting from this fact, there is very little doubt that Volz was directly or indirectly responsible for the death of the girl. Volz simply got away with murder mainly because of technicalities.

      Puracal’s case is materially different. There is no doubt, at least in my mind, that his case was not dropped earlier either because the family refused to pay a bribe or to a bizarre extent, to demonstrate Americans have no saying in Nicaraguan matters. Alternatively, some kind of prosecutorial vendetta given the publicized incompetence of those involved. I don’t believe Puracal himself knows why. I also doubt he would be concerned enough to withhold that information, if any, because of fear of retaliation and harm to Puracal’s in-laws in Nicaragua.

    • Kelvin

      Ken says ….”I’m not here assuming your guilt…./I am curious”.

      Ken, you remind me of the type of person that goes to the race track to watch a crash not the race!

      The evidence proving Jason innocent is nowhere near as sexy as the evidence of the smoking gun. That’s why you and everybody like you wants the smoking gun.

      Its why Carlos thinks like he does… “there is very little doubt that Volz was directly or indirectly responsible for the death of the girl”.

      There was a lot of doubt Carlos, enough doubt that if you were in that chair, you would want that doubt to be enough to free you also.

      • Carlos Briones

        In a nutshell what got Volz off the hook was a miscalculation of the time of Doris’ death. He was able to show mobile phone records that he was at his home in Managua when the girl was killed. A good entomologist, someone Nicaraguans lack, however, would have easily determined the correct time of death placing him in San Juan del Sur where he killed Doris.

        This is not new news. Look at the U.S., for example, where “[wo]men accounted for 85% of the victims of intimate partner violence, men for approximately 15%. (Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief, Intimate Partner Violence, 1993-2001, February 2003).

        Puracal’s case does not involve a murder nor to which the statistics above statistics can be attributed. For this reason, I find his case more symphathetic and strongly believe he was victim of some yet to be ascertained scheme.

        • Kelvin

          Carlos, I stood outside the murder scene and watched the way it was contaminated. As a former Police Detective, I wanted to scream, let alone run over and block the doorway.

          Your entomologist may have helped if the body had been moved from another scene and/or was in alter stage of decomposition.

          The overriding problem on the forensics was the contamination of the crime scene.

          If a Judge had allowed any evidence from that scene to support the prosecution (your bugs) then he would have to allow all the other evidence which would go for the defense. As a defense lawyer, you want it all kicked out.

          BTW, the dramatic stats you produced, are they for “current intimate partners”?.
          Perhaps you could show how they change after a relationship has ended, as was the case here.

  • Carlos Briones

    Kelvin, see this from Eric’s “Statement of Facts”:

    “Eric was at the house in Managua and in the presence of five people when he received the news that Doris was dead. He received that news from a friend of Doris’ who called his cell phone and spoke to Eric at 2:43 p.m. At about that same time, yet another witness, Rossy, arrived and saw Eric at his house in Managua.” (http://www.friendsofericvolz.com/case-history/).

    Now see this:

    “Eric Volz: I recieved a call from a young lady that ironically was an enemy of Doris… Imediately Later I was advised by a better friend of Doris, she called me at 12:43 p.m, they have criticised me quite a bit also saying that I took a lot of time to get to San Juan del Sur. when they called me with this type of news that affected me.” (http://www.therealnicaragua.com/vb/forums/showthread.php?t=1170).

    Look at the time.

    It is also peculiar that following such a shocking telephone call notifying him of his ex-girlfriend’s murder, that one would be “… was occupied attending to people, my secretary knew that I was the only one to sign the vouchers of the credit card, but she signed it.” (http://www.therealnicaragua.com/vb/forums/showthread.php?t=1170).

    Believe what you want, Doris was likely not killed at Volz’s convenient time of death, but much earlier. I also find your disregard to the statistics a bit absurd. Clearly, a good detective heavily seeks past relationships in crimes of violence and only when the motive appears to be financial that the trend changes to those with whom the victim was last involved.

    • Kelvin

      You have the last word Mr. Briones. You seem to be an expert. Good day.

  • Carlos Briones

    Kelvin –

    I am American.
    I do not condone impunity let alone murder.

    However, my appreciation for my countrymen and the respect I cherish for our American values will never allow me to turn a blind eye on injustice as in the Volz case.

    This, you may deem as my last word.

  • David

    The man was convicted with absolutely no evidence! And the guys who actually killed her walked away free! It was a scam to convict a gringo by a kangaroo Sandinista court that did not even have a real judge! Banana Republic!!!!