On August 12th, of this year Dave Strecker celebrated his 65th birthday. Two weeks later he had saved enough money from a recent construction job to pay for another vacation in Costa Rica. He left for San Jose on August 23rd and stayed for several weeks. However, as Dave arrived at the San Jose airport for his return flight on Friday, September 4th he was arrested at the airport.
It’s now been more three months since Dave was arrested. Prosecutors aren’t ready to go to trial, but they have demanded that Dave remain in prison as they work on the case. Since coming to Costa Rica, Dave has received the news of his mother’s death and funeral in Florida, missed Thanksgiving dinner and will now spend Christmas in prison with convicted murders, pedofiles, rapists and narcotraffickers.
Psychologically the situation has been difficult for Dave. Many of the convicts that share the prison with Dave have been released or are looking forward to their release following a Christmas amnesty, issued by an executive order of the president of Costa Rica, Luis Guillermo Solís.
Dave is ineligible for release because he is a foreigner, a United States citizen in Costa Rica and has yet to go to trial and argue his case in court. Dave says that it’s difficult to be around so many convicts who are excited about Christmas family visits or their release. Dave knows that his eventual release and return to the US and his family are uncertain futures. At 65 years old, it’s difficult to come to terms with his own mortality from behind the walls of a prison in a foreign country.
In a November court hearing, prosecutors successfully argued that they may be enough evidence to bring Dave to trial on charges of having prompted the country as a destination where consenting adults can exchange sex for money. Prostitution itself is not illegal in Costa Rica. However, telling people about prostitution, particularly in a language other than Spanish, and on the Internet is supposedly against the law.
There has never been a single conviction under the untested law, but prosecutors think Dave may be the first case. Or maybe not? Complex criminal cases in Costa Rica require, on average 3 years to come to trial. That can be a long time when you are 65 years old.
Most of the people who are imprisoned with Dave are young men. Normally Costa Rica does not send it’s Senior citizens to prison. Even when they are convicted of very serious crimes, some kind of house arrest or sentence reduction is given. Pretrial detention for a Senior citizen in Costa Rica is very rare, perhaps nonexistent.
Supposedly the Costa Rican culture stands for social values, and imprisoning the elderly, particularly without trial and on flimsy charges is inconsistent with those values. Perhaps for this reason Dave’s case has received zero attention in the Spanish language media in Costa Rica.
It would also be rather embarrassing for the government and judicial authorities to admit that the first and only case brought in a sweeping 2012 law designed to combat human trafficking is a 65 year old man from Key West, who published Facebook videos about his vacations in Costa Rica. They have yet to capture and apply the law to any organized crime figures or actual human traffickers.
Of course Costa Rica applies different values to the foreigners who visit or live among them. It’s a kind of social duplicity that makes Costa Rica appear unattractive or arbitrary, from an international perspective.
Over the last three months, his longest trip ever to Costa Rica Dave has received constant support from people who followed him on the Internet. He thanks the supporters who have donated a total of $4,225 to support his legal expenses. Dave himself is of modest means and would only qualify for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), if he were in the United States. However, as SSI is only payable to people who remain in the US, indefinite incarceration in Costa Rica makes Dave ineligible to receive any payments.
To date all of the money donated has been applied to his legal and prison expenses. The food provided at the San Sebestian prison is of a very poor quality. An expat volunteer brings him home cooked food, twice a week provided that the prison guards are kept happy and allow it.
Dave currently has an unpaid invoice from his attorney in the amount of $1,375. A total of $1,100 is left from previous donations, which makes for a shortfall of $275. Also, Dave is far from the end of the road in his case. After the holidays he may have another hearing to challenge pretrial detention. His attorneys say that a full trial will cost a minimum of $5,000 in legal fees.
Dave Depends on Your Support!
Having a competent legal representation at trial and keeping the pressure on the prosecutors to either make their case or release Dave are key to his survival. If the pressure goes away, then they will likely leave him to rot in prison for years while dealing with the other more serious backlog of cases associated with organized crime, rampant violence, murder and narco trafficking that plagues Costa Rica. To be broke and in prison in Costa Rica without family support is be dead.
Dave again hopes that you will show your support over the holidays to help replenish his legal fund. To be fair, he really doesn’t have much going for him, except your support. Donations have come from business owners and among Dave’s associates. However, many other people who are simply concerned about Dave or his unfair treatment have helped generously. Dave hope that you will continue to support him as he remains in prison unjustly.