SEATTLE -- A University of Washington graduate convicted of several crimes in Nicaragua was sentenced to 22 years in a maximum security prison.
Jason Puracal was found guilty of money laundering, drug trafficking and organized crime in a Nicaraguan court last month. Puracal, who was a real estate agent in Nicaragua, maintains his innocence and says the prosecution has no proof he committed any of those crimes.
Anna Tolin, the Puracal family's U.S.-based attorney, announced Puracal's sentence on Tuesday.
The defense plans to file an immediate appeal in the Appeals Tribunal of Granada. Nicaragua's appellate system currently has an 8-month backlog, the family said.
Puracal has already spent 10 months in jail.
Puracal was supposed to be sentenced at a hearing earlier this month, but his attorney and representatives of the U.S. Embassy waited 30 minutes at the hearing for the judge before learning he was not coming, Puracal's family said.
Puracal's relatives found a document from Nicaraguan courts that show the judge in this case was never licensed as an attorney, which they believe is a violation of Nicaraguan law.
Congressman Adam Smith has been helping the family, but Puracal's relatives hope the U.S. government will get more involved in the case.
Puracal lived in Nicaragua with his wife and 4-year-old son, Jabu. Relatives fear what a long sentence would mean for the little boy.
"Jason would have missed his whole life, other than twice-a-month visits for his son," said Jaime Puracal, Jason's sister. "That's not a life for a man that did nothing wrong."