About two and a half years ago in Madera, California, Benito Vasquez- Hernandez and his son Moises were arrested for hindering prosecution. They were taken to a county jail near Portland, Oregon but those charges were dropped. Benito and Moises have not been charged with any other crime, but they are being held as material witnesses in the trial of Benito’s other son Eloy Vasquez- Santiago. In Hillsboro, Oregon in 2012, Eloy is being charged with the murder of a fifty-five year old mother of six, Maria Bolanos-Rivera. Jeff Lesowski, who is the prosecutor in Eloy’s case, claims that he has regrets about keeping the father, Benito, locked up for so long, but he has no choice. “I’m trying to convict a man who has confessed to killing a mother” said Lesowski. Moises Vasquez-Hernandez was released from jail after 727 days because he was diagnosed with schizophrenia, while his father, Benito Vasquez-Hernandez, and brother, Eloy Vasquez-Santiago are still being held in jail.
Nicky Woolf, The Guardian, “Oregon man facing no charges remains in jail 900 days after arrest,” Raw Story, March 16, 2015
Student Researcher: Linda Goncalves, Indian River State College
Faculty Evaluator: Elliot D. Cohen, Ph.D., Indian River State College
An Oregon man by the name of Benito Vasquez-Hernandez, faces no charges, yet is being held as a material witness in the trial of his son, Eloy Vasquez-Santiago, and still remains in jail 900 days after his arrest. A father is suffering in jail for something that his child has done. No one should be kept in jail for over a month, let alone two and a half years in prison especially when they did not commit the crime. Not only is a man being held behind bars for a crime he did not commit, there are reports of some serious communication issues between the father and son, and the prosecutors.
The attorneys representing both Vasquez-Hernandez and his son reported that the two are unable to comprehend what is going on in the trial. The attorney of Moises, the son that was diagnosed with schizophrenia, reported in court documents that he had “a poverty of intellect that can be described as nothing short of stunning.” Apparently, Lesowski the prosecutor has been trying to find a way out of this situation by offering Vasquez-Hernandez the opportunity to give his testimony on video in a sworn deposition. Reports show that prosecutors are not sure Vasquez-Hernandez understood what he was being offered, or if he understood anything about the whole situation. Yet an innocent man is behind bars for a crime he did not commit and still being held and questioned without any understanding of what is going on. There are blatant ethical issues in this case and they are not being adequately covered the media.
How can we justify divesting a man of his legal rights by placing him in jail for over 900 days, and never charging him with a crime? It seems like the justice system in Oregon has forgotten that the Fourteenth Amendment provides for equal protection of the laws. Apparently, he is being held in jail in order to extort testimony out of him since he has not cooperated in offering testimony. But he has not been charged with a crime and therefore should be released from prison.