MEXICO CITY – The former Tacoma man imprisoned for two years by Nicaraguan authorities on drug and money-laundering charges left the country Friday in an apparent end to a case that U.S. lawmakers and human rights advocates called an example of unjust prosecution.
Jason Puracal, 35, was out of Nicaragua, but his family would not release any information about how he left or where he was, said Brad Chase, a spokesman for the David House Agency, a crisis-management firm that has been helping Puracal’s family.
Puracal left the prison Thursday in a car driven by his lawyer, Fabbrith Gomez, who said Puracal wouldn’t be speaking to the news media.
A three-judge appeals panel vacated three charges against Puracal in a decision announced Wednesday. He had been convicted in August 2011 and sentenced to 22 years in prison in September.
Nicaragua’s chief of organized crime prosecutors, Javier Morazan, said he was studying the ruling of the appeals court to decide which steps to take.
The appeals panel ruled that the sentencing judge failed to carefully examine the evidence and explain the reasons for convicting Puracal and 10 others. Also, the court agreed the judge had violated the defendants’ rights by not allowing the defense to introduce evidence.
The case has drawn the scrutiny of U.S. lawmakers and human rights advocates who considered the judicial process marred with inconsistencies. Among those supporting him were U.S. Rep. Adam Smith, D-Tacoma, and U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, both D-Wash.
Puracal was an honor student at Tacoma’s Foss High School. After graduating from the University of Washington, he joined the Peace Corps in 2002 and later became a real estate broker in the Nicaraguan town of San Juan del Sur.
On Nov. 11, 2010, police raided his office and prosecutors charged him with using his real estate business as a front for money laundering in a region used to transport cocaine from Colombia to the United States. Puracal said the bank deposits and withdrawals were legitimate home sales and denied dealing with drug traffickers.
A judge convicted him in August 2011.The News Tribune contributed to this report.