Falsely accused, man now helps others in his position
By Brendan Pringle
Beaten, jailed and alone, Jordan Diaz vowed never to give up. He knew he was innocent, even if it would take the world years to catch up.
Diaz was awaiting trial in a maximum-security prison cell at age 18, for a crime that he never committed. He had no money, no powerful friends, and no hope. Today, he’s working for the Verona, Virginia-based company that helped him find justice.
The legal system had crossed its wires. “They knew they didn’t have any evidence against me or a case,” he said. “First they find you guilty, and then you have to prove yourself innocent.”
For Diaz, like many undocumented immigrants to the United States, his false imprisonment was just one of many obstacles he has had to overcome.
Diaz grew up with an abusive father in Mexico. The beatings and bruises became intolerable by 2011; Diaz’s mother decided it would be safer for him and two of his siblings to risk the danger of an illegal crossing into the United States. With the help of a paid guide, they crossed the desert and the border that same year. But, after three days and two nights of walking in the Texas wildlands, the family was still far from a major city when they were apprehended by immigration authorities. They were returned to Mexico. After a day, they crossed the US border again, fearing that a Mexican cartel would kidnap them and hold them for ransom—an evil all too familiar to immigrants in the border lands.
This time, however, their guide double-crossed them. “She kidnapped us, and was asking my uncle for money,” Diaz said. “She was threatening to take us back to Mexico, where she said the cartel was going to rape my mother and sister. They were going to kill us all.”
His uncle quickly paid roughly $8,000 and drove through the night from Virginia to Texas to pick them up. Diaz spent the rest of his childhood in Virginia, where he attended high school and worked long hours in agriculture and other temporary work.
Five years or relative normalcy passed and then, on January 23, 2016, he was accused of committing rape while attending a family party at his uncle’s house. During the alcohol-fueled party, Diaz attracted the unwanted attention of the sister of his sister’s boyfriend.
Late that night, Diaz and his uncle went down to the basement game room. The young woman soon joined them. Her clear romantic interest made him feel uncomfortable, Diaz said. When she made another unwanted advance, Diaz said he politely sought to avoid her affection, but she kissed him.
Then came a pounding on the door.
“Open the door!” It was the girl’s brother, and for the first time, Diaz said he realized then that the young woman, unbeknownst to him, had locked the basement door.
Diaz said the girl all of a sudden began to repeatedly scream, “What did you do to me?” Diaz unlocked the door, only to be punched by the woman’s brother, who had assumed the worst. Then the scorned woman hit him as well.
It quickly went from weird to worse. “I know you did something to my sister!” her brother said. “I’m going to call the cops!”
“If you want to call the cops, call the cops,” Diaz responded. “I’m not worried because I didn’t do anything.”
The uniformed policemen arrived soon thereafter. Diaz answered their questions; they took notes and left. He thought that was the end of the matter.
Three days later, a two detectives and a sheriff’s deputy arrived. He agreed to do down to the Augusta County, Virginia Sheriff’s office.
Since he had watched enough police dramas, Diaz was reluctant to talk to investigators without a lawyer. This mistrust was compounded, Diaz said, when the police threatened to deport him and his family.
Diaz spent the night in the local jail and the next nine months in a county jail – including six months in maximum security, where he was only able to get out of his cell one-hour per day. Diaz said he passed the time sketching, playing cards and reading the Bible.
His attorney requested bail in three different hearings. Diaz was denied bail each time. Instead, he was offered a plea deal of five years in prison, which he rejected.
While he was in jail, Nexus Services, Inc. agreed to take on his case. For Nexus Services, Inc., president and co-founder Mike Donovan, such cases are indicative of a criminal justice system that often plays by special rules when it comes to immigrants.
“Police will frequently tell immigrants that if they don’t cooperate, ICE will be used to deport them and their families. It should be assumed that anyone who thinks it’s okay to threaten…will likely not do you any favors. Therefore, the most important thing anyone can do is protect their rights, and the right to remain silent is chief.”
Donovan, himself a former Virginia prisoner who was jailed for writing bad checks for a college party, is passionate about criminal-justice reform. “When people are detained, it makes it very difficult to prepare a defense, fight the state and all of its power and hire counsel,” Donovan said. “As a result, many plead guilty to crimes they didn’t commit.”
Nexus Services, Inc., division Libre by Nexus assists people who are in immigration custody, pays their bonds, and provides a GPS-tracking unit to monitor their whereabouts. When the county sheriff caught wind of this, he went to Nexus’ office to speak with the company’s president, Mike Donovan.
“How can you pay for legal defense for a rapist?” the sheriff said.
Donovan’s response was just as direct. “He’s wrongly accused,” he said. “The system guarantees his defense as well as protects your right to prosecute him.”
Donovan filed a lawsuit against Augusta County, Virginia and the county sheriff for racial bias and discrimination.
Diaz was released from prison on a $10,000 bond on November 16, 2016. But he had to wear with a GPS ankle bracelet until his trial, which was set for March 9, 2018.
His trial lasted two days. During the trial, his female accuser was caught lying eight times. The jury cleared Diaz of all charges.
Today Diaz works as a National Training Manager for Nexus Services, Inc., where he trains new employees. He has a new life with a solid middle-class income in a rural area where such jobs can be hard to find.
Still he regrets all that he lost before winning at trial. He never went back to finish high school, since the negative press coverage made him a pariah there. “Everybody knew me,” he said. “Everybody knew about my case. It was a big story in the news, so I didn’t want to go back.”
Diaz said he has lost some faith in the criminal-justice system. “I felt the authorities were just trying to keep me in jail because they knew I was here illegally,” he said. “They don’t care how they destroy a person. Who’s going to give me those nine months back?”
Diaz received no compensation or even an apology from Augusta County for his false imprisonment, lost income and mental torment.
Still, he likes to look for silver linings. He is grateful to Nexus Services, Inc., for believing in him, helping him find justice, make him part of a company that help others. “They have a huge heart to help people,” he said. “They change the lives of human beings. It’s really amazing to be able to help reunite families that haven’t been together for years.”
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