On August 29, 2011, U.S. citizen Jason Puracal was wrongfully convicted in Nicaragua of international money laundering, drug trafficking, and organized crime despite conclusive evidence of his innocence. Jason has been sentenced to 22 years in a maximum-security prison. He was tried along with ten Nicaraguan nationals—including a man running for political office against the Sandinista government. The trial was presided over by a political appointee who was neither a judge nor a licensed attorney. The proceedings were replete with violations of Nicaraguan and International laws and revealed a striking lack of evidence. Jason has consistently maintained his innocence. He has suffered repeated violations of basic human and legal rights during his detention and imprisonment.
Jason moved from Seattle to Nicaragua in 2002 to serve in the Peace Corps. After his service, he stayed in the country and eventually became co-owner of a local RE/MAX franchise where he had been working as a sales agent. He later married a Nicaraguan woman with whom he has a four-year-old son. Shortly before his arrest, Jason passed significant background screening by the Nicaraguan government to obtain residency.
On November 11, 2010, Nicaraguan police raided Jason’s home and office. Masked officers carrying AK rifles searched his real estate office and seized company computers, files, and bank accounts. They then forced their way into Jason’s home where his 65-year-old mother—a medical doctor who was visiting from the U.S.—and his young son were sleeping. The warrantless searches of Jason’s office, home, and vehicle yielded no evidence of a crime, yet Jason was arrested, charged, and imprisoned anyway.
While the defense was summarily prohibited from accessing pretrial discovery and presenting exculpatory evidence at trial, the Prosecution’s own case effectively proved that Jason did not commit the offenses with which he was charged. Police witnesses testified that no drugs were recovered from Jason. Indeed, the prosecution did not offer a single gram of drugs from any of the defendants to support this supposed case of international drug trafficking, and there was no evidence linking Jason to the other defendants. In fact, he had never met any of them.