Thursday, February 22, 2018

Jailed American fights Nicaraguan drug sentence

SAN JUAN DEL SUR, Nicaragua — Jason Puracal made his home in this Pacific coast beach town after a Peace Corps stint, wed a Nicaraguan woman and had a son. He watched the surfing community on the crescent-shaped bay flourish as more expats arrived and settled.

But Puracal's seemingly paradisiacal life changed abruptly in late 2010 when masked policeman raided his real estate office and took him to Nicaragua's maximum security prison. Prosecutors charged that Puracal was using his business as a front for money laundering in a region used to transport cocaine from Colombia to the United States.

Because no drugs or cash were seized, Puracal's family and friends thought he wouldn't be held long. Court documents didn't explain the alleged connections between the Tacoma, Wash., man and suspected drug traffickers arrested the same day.

But nine months later, a judge convicted Puracal and sentenced him to 22 years in prison for money laundering, organized crime and drug trafficking. "It's never made sense," said Jesse Pedro Resau, Puracal's best friend in San Juan del Sur and a fellow American. "Somebody got convicted and I have no idea how."

As a three-judge appellate panel mulls the 35-year-old American's fate, the case has drawn the scrutiny of U.S. lawmakers and human-rights advocates, including the California Innocence Project, which works to absolve people who have been wrongfully convicted. A decision is expected any day from the court, which began hearings on the case in mid August.

The U.S. State Department has been in contact with the Nicaraguan government, spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in May. In a letter signed by 42 other members of Congress, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., has asked Nicaragua President Daniel Ortega for an independent review of the case.

Comments
The Daystarter: Rubio taken to task; Romano on the GOP lobby; St. Pete’s World Liquors sign finds new home; what if Rays know what they’re doing?

The Daystarter: Rubio taken to task; Romano on the GOP lobby; St. Pete’s World Liquors sign finds new home; what if Rays know what they’re doing?

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.• Temperatures peaked Wednesday, but don’t expect cooler air to return just yet. Highs will remain in the mid 80s through next week, according to 10Weather WTSP. And it will re...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Calvary Christian baseball team opens title defense with heavy hearts

Calvary Christian baseball team opens title defense with heavy hearts

CLEARWATER — Braden Halladay admits there will be some emotions when he takes the mound Friday for his first start of the season. How can there not be?His father, Roy, won't be watching.Roy Halladay, one of the best Major League Baseball pitche...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Make it difficult – or impossible – to get assault weapons, say school superintendents at governor’s roundtable

Make it difficult – or impossible – to get assault weapons, say school superintendents at governor’s roundtable

Pinellas County school superintendent Mike Grego was one of five superintendents invited to Tallahassee this week by Gov. Rick Scott to discuss how to prevent another school shooting like last week's massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas Hig...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Aide who claimed students were ‘actors’ had IRS troubles. So why did Shawn Harrison hire him?

Aide who claimed students were ‘actors’ had IRS troubles. So why did Shawn Harrison hire him?

Facing Democratic criticism and national news coverage over fired legislative aide Benjamin Kelly, state Rep. Shawn Harrison said Wednesday that he hired Kelly despite a conviction for not filing tax returns because, "I believe in second chances...
Updated: 1 hour ago
UK growth in 2017 downgraded as consumer spending wanes

UK growth in 2017 downgraded as consumer spending wanes

Official figures show that the British economy did not grow as strongly as initially anticipated in the final quarter of 2017
Updated: 1 hour ago

Dutch prosecutors reject calls for criminal tobacco case

Dutch prosecutors said Thursday they will not open a criminal investigation into four major tobacco companies on charges including attempted murder or manslaughter, saying such a case would be unlikely to lead to a conviction
Updated: 1 hour ago
U-S-A! U-S-A! Women’s hockey beats Canada for Olympic gold

U-S-A! U-S-A! Women’s hockey beats Canada for Olympic gold

GANGNEUNG, South Korea — The Americans' gold medal drought in women's hockey is finally over. They needed the first shootout in an Olympic women's final to do it, too.Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson scored a dazzling, triple-deke goal in the sixth ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
World stocks lower after Fed report renews bond yield fears

World stocks lower after Fed report renews bond yield fears

World stock indexes are tracking Wall Street's decline as Fed report rekindled fears of inflation, rising bond yields
Updated: 2 hours ago

Legoland Florida locked down after concerning note found

Authorities say they closed Legoland Florida to new guests and prevented current guests from leaving for a short time after a concerning note was found in a family bathroom
Updated: 2 hours ago
A big night for NBC, led by Lindsey Vonn, women's hockey

A big night for NBC, led by Lindsey Vonn, women's hockey

Lindsey Vonn helps reignite interest in the Olympics with her skiing this week, and NBC is showered with American medals in thrilling telecast
Updated: 3 hours ago