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Free Mladen Pecanac, an innocent man, who's been 16 years in prison

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Mladen's story is a sad one... let's try to make it a happier one.

Mladen Pecanac was born in rural Bosnia in 1968. His father died when he was 4 years old. As you can imagine, growing up without a dad wasn't easy. His mother had to work extra hard to provide for three small children, and so wasn't able to be home much.

When he was in his early twenties, the war started in Bosnia and Mladen was arrested near Zavidovići trying to get to Serbian-controlled territory. He was imprisoned first in Zavidovići and then in Zenica, where he was tortured for several months.

Finally released from prison on December 25, 1993, Mladen has had continuous health problems caused by the torture, including pain in his arms, legs, and back from beating; weakness; shaking hands; and constant headaches.

As a refugee and prisoner of war he was later allowed to immigrate to Nevada, USA, where he has lived a peaceful life and worked in a kitchen. There he met 2 neighbors, brothers (kids), who lived with little parental supervision and care. He felt sorry for them and was kind to them, because he remembered how hard it was for him and his siblings growing up without a father and with a mother who had to work so much and could not be around.

One day, the brothers asked Mladen if they could play at his apartment to escape the fighting and abuse at home. Mladen told them yes, gave them an extra key, and went to work. Upon his return from work, the brothers were gone. Mladen noticed that the inside of every drawer was a mess, like someone had been going through them. He then saw that he was missing $50.

The next day Mladen saw the boys again and confronted them about the money. He told them he'd call the police if they didn't return the money. The two brothers promised they would return the $50 the next day. However, the next day police knocked at Mladen's door and arrested him. The boys had accused him of molesting one of the brothers!

In 2000, Mladen had two trials. The first trial was fair but ended with 10 jurors believing that he was innocent and 2 that he was guilty. He was tried again, found guilty this time, and sentenced to 20 years in prison without parole! He has been imprisoned ever since.

We all believe in our justice system. But every now and then we hear in the news about somebody who is imprisoned even though they are innocent. But how do we know Mladen is innocent?

That is the view of James M. Grady (phone 775-753-7776), who was the lead investigator on the case. Now retired, Mr. Grady is a very experienced investigator who has no doubt in Mladen's innocence. Mr. Grady said there were number of things that worked against Mladen. He spoke very little English. He couldn't afford an attorney. Also, the translator in the court was a Bosnian Muslim woman. Mr. Grady is uncertain both about how well she did her job as well as her personal bias towards Mladen.

Mr. Grady said that the jurors in Mladen's second trial couldn't reconcile why he would let the two boys into his apartment. It is so ironic and heartbreaking to see Mladen being punished so severely for trying to HELP kids who were going through similar struggles as he did as a child.

To make it even more heartbreaking, Mladen was offered a plea bargain before trial–five years in prison if he would enter a guilty plea. Mladen refused, not wanting to plead guilty to something he did not do. After his conviction, by the time Mladen learned enough English to understand that he had the right to appeal, the appeal deadline had already passed.

If you would like to try to help free Mladen, please sign this petition asking the Honorable Brian Sandoval, Governor of Nevada, to pardon Mladen so he doesn't have to serve another day for something he did not do. Sixteen years in prison is enough!

For more information don't hesitate to contact Dejan Bujak (301-675-1682,

To get in touch with Mladen directly:

Mladen Pecanac 67798
Lovelock Correctional Center
1200 Prison Road
Lovelock, NV 89419



Q: Has Mr. Grady, the retired investigator, given permission for his telephone number to be given out and offered to speak with callers about the case?
A: Yes

Q: When the police arrested Mladen, was it just the boys' word versus Mladen's, or was there any other evidence of molestation presented during his trials?
A: It was boys’ word versus Mladen’s

Q: Did any doctors examine the boys and testify at the trials? Had the boys or their parents ever accused anyone else of such a thing?
A: Not to my knowledge

Q: Even though he could not afford an attorney, I assume that Mladen had a court-appointed attorney representing and advising him and who would have explained things to Mladen like his right to appeal and what the deadline was. What happened?
A:  Due to the bad translation/or Mladen didn’t understand his rights

Q: Have there been earlier attempts made to help free Mladen or is this the first one? It seems strange to wait until almost the entire sentence has been served (16 of 20 years), especially if innocent of the charges, before trying.
A: Mladen’s been trying to prove his innocence and get out of the jail all these years, with no success. Good news is that the Innocence Project took his case recently!

Q: How old were the boys and how did Mladen know that the boys lived basically without parental supervision and care?
A: Around 10 years old

Q: There are lots of other places the boys could play safely away from their own home. Why would Mladen let them into his apartment and then leave them there unsupervised?
A: This is what caused Mladen prison sentence – culturally, jurors couldn’t reconcile why would somebody (even with Mladen’s past) allow the boys inside his apartment, something that was common practice in Mladen’s culture.

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