Jason Puracal is back in the Pacific Northwest, carrying all types of scars from nearly two years in a Nicaraguan prison on now-dismissed drug charges.
The case against Puracal, 35, a Tacoma native and University of Washington graduate, became an international innocence campaign supported by members of Congress and human-rights groups.
In an interview Wednesday, Puracal said he plans to write a book about his experience and pursue a graduate degree. But first, he hopes to recuperate and reconnect with his family, who spent about $500,000 on his defense and an innocence campaign led by his sister Janis Puracal, a Seattle attorney.
"It was the most horrific experience I ever dealt with," he said.
Puracal lived in Nicaragua for 10 years, worked as a Realtor in the coastal town of San Juan del Sur, married a local woman, Scartleth, and had a son, Jabu, now 5, before being arrested in November 2010, in a multidefendant drug-trafficking case.
Puracal was convicted of laundering drug profits through his business escrow account. An appeals court last week absolved him, after finding Puracal hadn't been allowed to present a defense.
In prison, he said, he often went without adequate food or water. He said he witnessed stabbings, was robbed several times and denied medical care for third-degree burns on his leg, which remains scarred.
Asked why he was targeted for arrest, Puracal said, "I've asked that question every day for the past 22 months. I don't know the motive behind police to make up such horrific lies about me."
Puracal said he kept a journal of letters to his young son "to somehow explain to him why I was ripped away from him." Those will likely now be the basis of a memoir, he said.
Puracal said he plans to stay in the area with his wife and son and wanted to thank supporters who followed the case through the freejasonp.com website. He has appeared on CNN and NBC's "Today" show since arriving in the U.S. on Friday.
He'd doesn't rule out going back to Nicaragua. "Nicaragua will always hold a place in my heart. It's possible we will go back."
Jonathan Martin: 206-464-2605 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @jmartin206.