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Free Dylan Johnson: US citizen wrongfully convicted in Mexico

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Dylan Johnson, now 30, is a US Citizen and he is currently serving a 13-year prison sentence, in San Miguel de Allende, a town in the central Mexican state of Guanajuato, for a crime he did not commit. Prosecution is appealing for an even longer sentence.


This story proves the adage that truth is stranger than fiction. These are the facts of the case:


In 2003, Dylan, at the request of his mother who had relocated to Comonfort, Guanajuato, drove a truck down for her. He helped her with the construction of her new home and spent time in this small town. 


On September 7, 2003 the body of a sixteen year old male was discovered in a hotel room in Empalme Escobedo. This hotel is known as a place where rooms are rented by the hour. License plate numbers are recorded in their registry but generally no names. The police questioned the hotel staff who said a “gringo” had rented the room and that he had arrived in a green truck. They said they did not record a license plate number this time or have information about the make or model of the truck.


On Sept. 11, 2003, Dylan, whose visa was about to expire, asked a neighbor to drop him at the bus station so he could fly back to the US, leaving the truck for his mother, who at the time was in the US, settling her father’s estate. The police see a green truck, seize it, and say they found copies of Dylan’s passport and ID – having copies of one’s papers, especially regarding cars, is necessary down here. A warrant was issued for his arrest. 


No forensic evidence,  the crime scene has been described in various contradictory ways:

Rape and strangulation with blood evidence and strangulation with no sign of sexual activity or other violence. A bizarre case of injustice.


The first week of Dylan’s arrival in Mexico the rape charges had been dropped. Aggravated Murder charge is reduced to Simple Homicide. 


Dylan, unaware of any murder or warrant, returns to the US, marries and starts a business. In 2009, six years after this crime, police return to the hotel with a photo array, five Mexican men with facial hair and one gringo without facial hair. The staff identifies the gringo. The only American male in the photo array. 


 In 2010, then Mexican Ambassador to the United States, Arturo Sarukhan, files an extradition request. Two more years go by and on February 7, 2012, a group of US Marshals enter the home of Dylan and his wife Erica at 6am, grab and shackle Dylan, order his wife to remove his shoelaces, kick the dog down the basement stairs and take Dylan away. He then sits in prison for eight months waiting for a hearing. Most of this time is spent in solitary confinement because, although he has not been charged with anything, the prison population is somehow informed that he is a pedophile. He has a medical condition and his usual medication was not provided. On October 17, 2012, extradition was granted based, not on any evidence, but on a low standard of probable cause: a ludicrous photo identification, being in the area, having a truck and perhaps having met the victim – this is a small town, most people come across each other at some point and certainly gringos stand out.


The judge, Maureen Kelly, in an opinion and order dated Oct. 17, explained that her task was not to determine Johnson’s guilt or innocence, nor whether the evidence provided would be sufficient under U.S. law to meet the requirements of probable cause. Her job was to certify to the secretary of state that Johnson may be detained and surrendered to Mexico, pursuant to an existing extradition treaty between the U.S. and Mexico. 


This treaty was agreed upon in 1978 and it does not require either country to surrender its own nationals. There is a 60 day window for an appeal to be filed but Dylan was extradited before the deadline so he was denied his writ of habeas corpus which is expressly referenced in Article 1 Section 9 of the Constitution of the United States of America. Dylan was not given time to even make a phone call and he was extradited with an expired passport. He wasn’t able to contact his wife until a fellow inmate offered his cell phone in Mexico City. In extradition hearings, constitutional rights basically do not apply, hearsay is admissible, contradictory evidence is inadmissible and so is presentation of an alibi.


Since this time, his wife has made countless attempts to reach the State Department, the attorneys involved, consular agents, both embassies and she has been ignored. Dylan does not know who his public defender is and does not understand the trial proceedings since his Spanish isn’t good and he is not allowed translations of the documents. He says has no access to basic essentials like hygiene products and in Mexico, inmates families are expected to provide for them.

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