In January, 2009, Puerto Rican political prisoner Carlos Alberto Torres was scheduled for a parole hearing, after serving 29 years behind bars for his commitment to the independence of Puerto Rico. On the eve of his hearing, prison authorities falsely accused him and eight of his cellmates of possessing knives which the tenth cellmate had hidden— unbeknownst to them all— in the light fixture of the cell. Having maintained an immaculate record for his 29 years in prison, why would Carlos Alberto do something to jeopardize his parole on the eve of his hearing?
The January parole hearing was postponed, the false accusation was ultimately expunged, and he proceeded to hearing in May.
At the May hearing, the hearing examiner for the Parole Commission recommended that he be paroled on April 3, 2010— by when Carlos Alberto will have served exactly 30 years in prison— and advised that we could expect the commission’s final decision within 21 days. However, in June, prison authorities reinstated the false weapons possession charges against Carlos Alberto and his eight cellmates.
On July 28, the Parole Commission notified Carlos Alberto that they would postpone their decision for at least 90 days, pending resolution of the charges.
Two days later, the prison disciplinary hearing officer held hearings on the false weapons charges. Carlos Alberto’s defense consisted not merely of his statement denying possession. The tenth cellmate appeared as a witness, admitting that the knives were his, and his alone, and that Carlos Alberto and none of the other cellmates knew he had hidden the knives in the light fixture. The guilty party also provided a sworn statement to this effect. Much to the surprise of Carlos Alberto and the other eight cellmates, the disciplinary hearing officer nevertheless found them guilty of possessing the hidden weapons.
The finding of guilt will undoubtedly adversely affect the decision of the Parole Commission. Indeed, one might suspect that the reinstatement of the charges and the finding of guilt were calculated to adversely affect the decision.
The National Boricua Human Rights Network and the Comité Pro Derechos Humanos de Puerto Rico are waging a phone and fax campaign to the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the U.S. Parole Commission, asking that the false disciplinary charges be expunged and that Carlos Alberto be released from prison. Sample letters and contact information are provided below.