Monday, August 20, 2007

A Letter from Eric

Dear Friends,

Out of concern for my safety, my defense team and I have been extremely passive and gracious to those responsible for this injustice. Some might be surprised to know that despite the overwhelming evidence proving my innocence and a growing network of global support, the indicators and nuances we are getting here tell us that my freedom is not getting any closer.
As I enter into my 9th month in prison with no word from the appellate court and with the authorities increasingly violating my rights to defense (see Appendix 1), it has become obvious that an adjustment to our approach is needed. I have waited as long as I can to write this letter, but as a man fighting for his life, I’m left with no other choice.

I’ll just get straight to the point – everyone wants to know what’s going on? “Why haven’t they ruled on your appeal?” In order for people to understand the context of the situation I need to give a short summary of some of the events that have taken place since the trial. I will share many details that have not yet been offered through the web updates as we have tried to keep the attention focused on the judicial process instead of all the hype surrounding it. This story has many branches so I have added appendices providing background information on some of the elements mentioned.

After I was found guilty by the district court, as many of you are aware, the story was picked up by some international press groups. Up to this point the only press coverage of the case had been by Nicaraguan media that, with the exception of two reports (see Appendix 2), was absolutely biased and determined to convince the Nicaraguan public that I had murdered Doris. By manipulating, filtering (see Appendix 3), and most of all utilizing prejudiced tones in the headlines, they succeeded in their goal and their dishonest version of the story has become “gospel”.

So when the international investigative journalists started providing coverage, it was really the first time the story had been told from an impartial perspective, even though the case was already more than three months old. And although it raised awareness around my situation, which has translated into amazing support from all over the world, the effect that it had on me here in Nicaragua was, for the most part, negative. Let me explain why…
The international press gathered the facts from all sides and for the first time the evidence supporting my innocence was reported. So, when contrasted to the biased version the Nicaraguan public had been fed, it was suddenly a much larger story that not only suggested that there is no way I could be guilty of what I was being accused of, but also leaves you questioning the legality of the judicial process of this case.

The Nicaraguan news sources that had deceived the public were suddenly faced with an embarrassing problem. They were being held accountable by the international media’s non-biased version of the story and many Nicaraguans were starting to take notice. The newspaper El Nuevo Diario (see Appendix 4) was the first to react and, as a strategy to save face, chose to further deceive the public by questioning the integrity of the international reporters and once again leveraging resentment against me and my family as they had done before the trial.

They started with an article called “Campana Peligrosa de Familia Volz” (Dangerous Campaign of the Volz family), in which they claimed that the international media was being directed by my family and that we were attempting to politicize the story by making reference to the political history between the U.S. and Nicaragua. In addition, they ran an article called “Derrocha de Dinero” (Squandering of Money), where they reported that my family was “spending enormous sums” to fund the international media coverage (this is of course absurd, besides the fact that we are all broke, anyone, who thinks logically, would know that a civilian family doesn’t have any influence over what is produced by CNN, NBC, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, or any other international media outlets. They report what sells). The Nicaraguan tabloid “Hoy” also attacked hard with a series of front page stories telling readers that the international news interest and web media was a result of my “power to manipulate.” Several Nicaraguan national TV news programs followed the newspaper’s lead and aired some reports on the “grand and potentially dangerous campaign of the Volz family.” (I encourage people to look these articles up and read them personally).

In essence, what these news sources were telling the Nicaraguan public is that the corporate news brands abroad were being influenced to present me as a victim. As a move to preserve their credibility they implied that the dishonest version of the story was not their own, but rather that of the international corporate networks. In addition, they further generated dislike for me and my team by saying that the foreign press coverage was giving Nicaragua a bad name, claiming its judicial system is corrupt - that was never said in any of the international media coverage.

The overall result of us being accused as the “directors or authors of a movement that was giving Nicaragua a bad image” generated a new wave of resentment toward me by those who had been once and again fooled by the Nicaraguan press (see Appendix 5). I immediately felt the consequences of that resentment in prison not only from fellow inmates, but by the authorities as well. The resentment had obviously become institutionalized because the warden stopped allowing me to do interviews and, in violation of my constitutional rights as a prisoner in the appeal process, dozens of Nicaraguan and international reporters were turned away without me even knowing. The public relations department of the penitentiary system was simply responding to inquiries by saying, “Eric doesn’t want to do anymore interviews.” CNN was even denied entrance despite the fact that they had a specific court order authorizing them to interview me. The message was clear – the authorities didn’t want the world to know the truth.

After almost three months a couple of progressive Nicaraguan journalists who were interested in telling my side of the story to the Nicaraguan public somehow managed to get permission to interview me in prison. On the afternoon of May 9 I was interviewed by Camilo de Castro from the TV news program “Esta Semana”, Xavier Reyes Alba from La Radio Trinchera, and Elizabeth Romero from the newspaper La Prensa (that three hour block was the first and only chance I have had to defend myself in the Nicaraguan press).

Since it was the first time the general Nicaraguan public would hear me speak and they were aware of how much slandering the press had done with me, all three journalists published the interviews in a neutral Q&A format. Due to the time and space constraints of their mediums, I only really got to scratch the surface, but I was able to share enough of my unheard story to apparently have really challenged the Nicaraguan public to reconsider what they had been told.
In fact, I was told by a source that 50% of San Juan del Sur believes that I’m innocent since those interviews were released, but that many are still apprehensive to acknowledge it publicly for fear of retaliation from Doris’ family. Another person told me that most of the people in Managua now believe that I’m both completely innocent and got set up, or that something mysterious went on in the judicial process.

Unfortunately, that series of interviews also caused the authorities to react by applying even more pressure on me in prison. You see, defending me means pointing out some of the inconsistencies in the accusations against me. For example, the judge said I was scratched by Doris on my shoulder, but the police report stated that there was no skin tissue or blood found under her nails. Or the fact that the district attorney prosecutor had evidence linking Danglas to the crime scene, but withheld it knowing that they were going to free him in exchange for his testimony against me. In other words, when I defend myself certain institutions here not only look bad, it makes people question their motives.

To my surprise, after the interviews there was virtually zero reaction in the press. The only rebuttal, to my knowledge, was an article in the tabloid “Hoy” refuting my explanation that the bruises on my shoulder were caused by carrying Doris’ coffin. The same article featured a side column where Doris’ mother demanded that the National Police present the “supposed declaration” in which, according to them, I admitted to the murder of Doris (see Appendix 6) - (as far as I know, this declaration “story” is the main reason why she was initially convince that I was guilty).

Now the police, as a result of my interviews, had Doris’ mother breathing down their neck. And although it points out many of the inconsistencies and contradictions in the case against me, it wasn’t enough to convince Doris’ mother of my innocence, it was enough to have pissed someone else off somewhere. The next day the prison guards started handcuffing me within the prison (see Appendix 7), cut my access to the telephone to one call per week, and started telling anyone who wanted to see me that they needed a court order, including my attorney (see Appendix 8).
Several weeks later on May 25, El Nuevo Diario newspaper ran a small article called “Trabajan en proyecto de anular juicio Volz” (They are working on the project of annulling the case of Volz) in which the secretary of the appellate court was interviewed saying that 75% of the case file had been reviewed by the magistrates presiding over my case and that they would be ruling “in the next couple of weeks” (which would have meant the 2nd week of June). He also explained that they were leaning toward annulling the sentence and calling for a retrial, describing the various terms under which this could happen. The article also mentioned that the police were revisiting some of the clues of the investigation including the American real estate developer, Ken Ross, who they claimed has information on who killed Doris (see Appendix 9).
Overall, it just seemed as if the article was published with the purpose of testing the possible verdict to see what kind of reaction it would provoke. After all, annulling the trial would be a temporary way to diplomatically save face internally in Nicaragua. One must remember that a correct ruling declaring me innocent suggests that the national police, the district attorney prosecutor, and the trial judge all made mistakes. And that is not the only pressure that the magistrates are faced with.

On June 1 an article called “Ruling on Volz Appeal Expected Soon” appeared in the English newspaper for ex-pats and tourists, “The Nica Times”. The author, Tim Rogers, speaks with the head of the three judge appellate panel presiding over my appeal, who again confirmed that “75% of the case file had been reviewed” and that they were “expecting to rule in the next few weeks,” (which, again, would have been the middle of June). He also said that they (the presiding magistrates) are in a tough situation and feel the pressure because if they rule in favor of Eric Volz there will be “a revolt on the part of Doris’ family and they (the judges) will be accused of being corrupt.” On the flip side he explained, “…that if they confirm the sentence, there will be a revolt by the international community.” The fact that the potential public reaction of their verdict is even mentioned is symbolic and will let those reading draw their own conclusions as to what that could mean in terms of due process.

After realizing that indeed the appeal was being affected by the pressure of public opinion, some Nicaraguan friends of mine in Managua decided that best way to help would be to try and relieve some of the pressure by spreading more awareness about the facts by proving my innocence. They organized a grass roots campaign called “Justicia por Eric Volz” (Justice for Eric Volz). They pooled money to finance 30 large banners that were hung at the busiest intersections in the cities of Managua, Masaya and Granada. They also handed out 15,000 fliers telling people to “get to know the truth” and visit the web site.

So far, this civil campaign has been the single most impactful action yet in support of me in Nicaragua. The traffic on the Spanish web site greatly increased and Nicaraguans for the first time were able to read “The Declaration of Facts” prepared by my defense team, which speaks for itself. I started getting tons of letters from Nicaraguans apologizing for what has happened to me, on behalf of their system, offering help, and explaining how they originally thought I was guilty, but after learning more, clearly see that I was used as a scapegoat. Also, many people committed to spread around the web site and promote awareness of the truth. It was an awesome success and really helped to change more public opinion in my favor among the general public of cosmopolitan Nicaragua. But, once again, it would seem that positive energy surrounding me was upsetting someone somewhere, because, although the campaign banners were authorized with the proper municipal permits, several were prematurely taken down by the authorities. My friends, who paid for them, weren’t given an explanation why.

Perhaps more relevant is the fact that, despite it’s size and impact, the ”Justicia por Eric Volz” campaign was not reported in any of the national newspapers, radio, or TV news, with the exception of “La Trinchera de la Noticia” (see Appendix 10). The fact that none of the mainstream press reported on the campaign sent yet another strong message that they were not interested in endorsing anything that was in support of Eric V. That has been the general vibe that we have been confronted with down here since the beginning – the repression and denial by the formal sector of anything that contributes to my defense.

So, here we are in month #9 with no official news or update from the appeals court as to when they are going to make a move and people are starting to raise an eyebrow out of suspicion. The international news groups are heating up again because of what seems to be a frozen appeal, the lack of communication, and the way I’ve been treated in prison have become part of the story. Everyone is simply asking, “What is going on?”

The summary you have just read explains some of the context surrounding my appeal while sharing some of the subtle and not so subtle messages that have been communicated. But there is an additional factor that must be considered.

This other factor has to do with the most relevant detail of all. It has to do with the fact that I was a foreign investor and legal resident living in Nicaragua who lost virtually everything I had worked for as a result of the judicial process I was subjected to. It is also the reason my case has become very political.

At the heart of the matter is the problem that Nicaraguan entrepreneurs don’t have the investment capacity that the country needs to create jobs and reach stable growth, which is why foreign investment is needed. At the same time, foreign investment requires a stable business climate where the rule of law is clear, an impartial judicial system is established, and equal rights are guaranteed.
The problem for Nicaragua is that this case is known internationally. Many who are considering investing in Nicaragua are referencing my situation as a case study in analyzing the investment horizon and many have already decided not to bring their capital here as a result. So, this case is a big deal as thousands of people in Nicaragua and perhaps millions of people abroad are watching and anxiously awaiting the resolution.

What will the resolution be?

The answer would seem obvious. If politicians are worried about investment and upholding the law, then let me go! They have all the evidence to prove my innocence. But with a closer look it’s not so obvious because, as I mentioned before, declaring me innocent is acknowledging that serious mistakes were made, since no new evidence is allowed to be presented in the appeal (it is the same case file, just a new court).

In contrast, as long as I am officially stamped “guilty” the fact that I was an investor who suffered serious losses as a result of being railroaded, is not officially validated because, if one was guilty, losing assets would be part of the consequences of their actions. This second scenario is the most convenient for those trying to attract investment to Nicaragua since supporting Eric Volz and trying to sell Nicaragua as a good investment is essentially a conflict of interest (see Appendix 11).

So, the answer to the question of why the court hasn’t ruled on the appeal yet has to do with these reasons that the judges are feeling the pressure surrounding my case. They are also the reasons why this has become political and, by all definitions, I am a political prisoner. This is also the reasons why this has become political and, as a result, as with all court cases that become political here, it is about waiting for a politically convenient moment to announce the verdict, whatever and whenever that will be.

This is my reality, Free Eric V.

p.s. it is important that you all know that I’m taking a risk publishing this simple and brief summary update. I’m expecting there will be another reaction by the authorities in response to me spreading the truth. This letter will also, most likely, be cited and taken out of context by national press to further condemn me and sell more papers along the way. But as I mentioned in the beginning, I have no choice. If I remain silent, the injustice becomes forgotten and goes unnoticed. And that my friends, is not going to happen!

Disclosure to close the Update:

Eric wrote this letter at the beginning of July. Since then the prison guards have allowed him two 30 minute visits with his attorneys. There are press reports that the appeals court will be announcing their verdict in the next month. Our hope is that this will be true. In the meantime, Eric is living on the edge. If people only knew the environment in which he produced this letter it would blow your mind. His daily reality is literally something most of us have read in books. He is fully aware of the love and support that has flourished around the world on his behalf and sends his appreciation every time we talk to him.

Appendix 1:

Only two news events pre-trial that cannot be classified as anti-Eric:
The weekly news program called “Esta Semana” by Carlos Fernando Chamorro covered the story a couple of weeks before the trial. It was the first time any of the inconsistencies in the accusation against me were reported. The host, Camilo de Castro, did a thorough investigation. In reality, the 15 minute segment was only able to scratch the surface and, although it raised important questions, the response I got from most people who saw it was that it simply left them “feeling murky about the whole thing.”

Appendix 2:

The first district judge that presided over my case, Peter Palma (upon receiving the results that none of the physical evidence linked me to the crime scene), ruled that due to lack of evidence, that my imprisonment was unfair and released me on house arrest. His decision caused a strong reaction by the public who had already been fooled by the local press into believing I was the murderer. The headlines read, “Dollarized Crime,” suggesting that I had paid a bribe for him to release me on house arrest. Doris’ mother, the district attorney, and the Rivas Police were repeatedly interviewed as they denounced the judge. It caused such a scene that Judge Palma’s decision was actually taken to the Supreme Corte of Justice (Nicaraguan Supreme Court) and a committee was formed to investigate. The district attorney prosecutor and Judge Palma himself were called to appear in front of the committee and a hearing was held. After several weeks, the Supreme Court ruled that Judge Palma had indeed, “acted correctly,” and that, “the case against Eric Volz has serious holes and deficiencies.” This verdict by the Supreme Court received a quick clip on the nightly news and a small corner article in the newspaper, La Prensa. It was another sign that the media was out to condemn me, but the news was so relevant that they had to report on it.

The fact that the Supreme Court has reviewed the case file and is on public record declaring that there are “serious holes and deficiencies” in the district attorney’s case against me is something that has not been reported in any international news story to date. I have mentioned this event in every interview and still believe it be one of the most important indicators of the truth. (El Nuevo Diario, February 7, 2007, “Fijan juicio por atroz crimen de Doris Ivania”)

Appendix 3:

Early on when the first newspaper articles started to come out and we saw how biased they were, we thought that the reporters must not have had all the facts. So my defense team took action and sent copies of the official case file to the newspaper editors as well as organized a radio/TV press conference. They clearly presented my defense alibi and pointed out the inconsistencies in the prosecutor’s charges against me. Despite our efforts, the prejudiced reporting continued. (do a key word search in the Archives of El Nuevo Diario and La Prensa newspapers for the actual articles)

When Doris’ mother declared that I had offered her a million dollars to drop the charges, my mom had to fight for a week to get someone in Nicaragua to publish her response to this false accusation. When they finally did, it ran in a thin column on the inside fold of one of the back pages, compared to the half page article that had been allocated to Doris’ mother. At one point it got so bad that we had no choice but to purchase ad space in both papers to offer a rebuttal to the ridiculous allegations that were being made. Regardless of our attempts, the papers continued to sell the story of a jealous maniac boyfriend who murdered and raped out of passion, then tried to utilize his “fortune and status” as a gringo, with support from the U.S. Embassy, to try and buy his way out of the law, which of course is not true.

At one point, an article even suggested that I was involved in money laundering and was being investigated for falsifying passports, both of which are, again, total nonsense and serve as an example of how unprofessional some of the journalism is in Nicaragua.

Not one national journalist, with the exception of Camilo de Castro from “Esta Semana” solicited an interview with me before the trial, and although all the newspaper editors knew my work with EP Magazine, they selectively chose not to bring that into the story. They clearly didn’t want people to know who I was or hear my side of the story.

Appendix 4:

El Nuevo Diario is Nicaragua’s second largest newspaper and is responsible for the majority of the propaganda against me since my arrest. Approximately 80% of the articles published nationally have been in this paper. Nearly 90% of these are articles were written by the same author, Lesber Quintero from Rivas.

Appendix 5:

The irony of this is that my family and I have actually spent a lot of time and energy keeping the corporate media frenzy as low a profile as possible.

Many of the major media groups that have covered this story outside of Nicaragua were knocking on our door pre-trial. They wanted to come to Nicaragua and do interviews. They wanted to come investigate and film me in prison. We requested that they stand down, explaining that we didn’t want to “sauce up” the already existent tension with more press. We put our faith in the Nicaraguan judicial process, believing the court would consider the facts, not public opinion.

Despite our efforts, the local press has accused us of being the ones responsible for the international media coverage, and, subsequently Nicaragua getting a “bad image.” Even the Vice President of Nicaragua, Jamie Morales Carazo, is on record saying that, “Eric’s family has done a good job manipulating the international press” (“Morales Carazo refuta al Washington Post” – El Nuevo Diario, May 11, 2007). This is a very important article because he is the highest political figure to publicly comment on the case.

Appendix 6:

Commissioner Emilio Reyes, of the Investigative unit of the Rivas Police, is the official who ordered my arrest. To justify his action he not only lied to his fellow policeman, but to Doris’ mother as well, saying that I had confessed to the murder of Doris but was given orders by the U.S. Embassy not to sign the declaration. There is, of course, no declaration (confession)! (source: HOY tabloid, February, 17, 2007, entitled: “Incidente Violent”
One of the most influential articles published convincing the public that I was guilty was when Doris’ mother did an interview with El Nuevo Diario claiming that she had a recording of a telephone call with commissioner Reyes in which he claims that “I had confessed to the murder but refused to sign a declaration.”

All of these claims are false. In the interviews I was able to do nationally, my questions to the public were;

If Doris’ mother had a recording why didn’t she present it in court?

If the policeman said there is a declaration, where is it?, and;

Why didn’t Commissioner Reyes testify in court if I confessed to him? (he was the arresting officer, but he didn’t even show his face during the trial)

When I raised these questions Doris’ mother obviously realized she was lied to by the police and that is why she demanded, in the “Hoy” article, for the police to present the declaration.

Appendix 7:

The penitentiary has a system in which all prisoners are categorized into one of four security regiments. Anytime a prisoner is taken outside the compound walls for a visit to the courthouse or hospital, by law they are to be cuffed. But within the prison, cuffs are only used on prisoners that are in a punishment regiment. These are dangerous and problematic inmates that are kept in confinement galleries, locked in their cells at all times. Out of the population of 2,600 prisoners, I was the only one not on a punishment regiment that was being cuffed. I have no misconduct reports and despite several formal complaints, have never been offered an explanation by the guards about why I was being cuffed.

It was simply a means of applying pressure and attempting to demoralize me, not to mention dangerous because if some action pops off your ability to defend yourself is limited (all the prisoners were talking about the way I was being treated). The cuffs went on for two and a half months.

The U.S. Embassy was finally able to get me a meeting with the warden in which I expressed that I have a right to an explanation for the cuffs. I asked why they started cuffing me the day my interviews were published. The warden simply told the captain of internal orders, “no more cuffs for Eric.” No explanation was ever given.

Appendix 8:

I haven’t seen my attorneys in four months. The way in which the authorities have isolated me from my defense attorney is not only a grave violation of the law, but also, as they have intended, has greatly limited my legal mobility to pressure the speed of the appeal process. Formal complaints have been issued and we are hoping to get this straightened out.

Appendix 9:

I thought this was symbolic because basically the police were admitting they weren’t satisfied with those who they had accused initially. Why else continue the investigation?
Unfortunately, the reality is another. As long as someone is in jail for Doris’ murder the case is closed. It was simply a response that was forced as a result of my national interviews that pointed out how unprofessional their investigation was. The police’s “continued investigation” has not been mentioned since.

Appendix 10:

This publication is the only media outlet that has provided consistent and thorough coverage of this case. The coverage has been well-researched and documented without all the sensational headlines of the other papers or TV coverage.Xavier Reyes Alba, 51 yrs. old, Chief Editor and partner of Trinchera de la Noticia, since September 1999; Editor-Owner of the news radio talk program "60 Minutos con Xavier Reyes Alba" (Radio El Pensamiento, Managua, founded, November 1991).Xavier began to work in the radio journalism field when he was 15 - an internship with his oldest brother Alan Tefel Alba, a journalist, too.He was the deputy editor of Barricada, the official newspaper of the Sandinistas during the 80`s, from July 1979 until Feb. 1987. He then joined the Radio Sandino Press Staff as the Chief Editor of the News Department (1987-1988).1988-1990- Deputy Director of the Sandinista Television System.1990- 2002 - Teacher at the Communication Department at UCA, (Universidad Centroamericana, Managua).1991-2007 - Partner of JART Comunicaciones, S.A., a family business (Communications Consultant).Xavier has also served as a correspondent for several magazines, Press Agencies, and has worked as the Director of Public Relations of the Electoral Supreme Council in Nicaragua.

Appendix 11:

Many people I know and some who I consider friends who are investing or doing business in Nicaragua (both Nationals and ex-pats) know in their heart that I am innocent, but have convinced themselves that I’m guilty for the sake of business. There are a few who even adopted a response that, “Eric could be innocent, but he didn’t do a good job defending himself in trial.”

Supporters have sent me letters including the responses of investment consultants and real estate developers when asked what they think about the Volz case. Let’s just say I have learned who my true friends are and who are not.

Permission to print is granted by Eric Volz. Any unauthorized use or duplication of this material is prohibited unless permission is granted by the copyright owner.

Friends of Eric Volz Web Site


Mandelbrot's Chaos said...

This needs to be met with the U.S. Ambassador to Nicaragua being recalled, calls for UN sanctions, and any foreign financial aid needs to be pulled. Then let the bastards see the true cost of perpetuating a gross injustice.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I cannot begin to imagine the horror this family is living every second of every day.... I'd have to have drugs, good drugs (legal of course)

Thank you liestoppers for continuing to keep us updated.