David Strecker was arrested in Costa Rica on Friday, September 4th. Since his arrest, the Internet has been filled with speculation and inaccurate information. This article is a summary of the facts, which makes clear that Dave is being held in prison, and without trial in Costa Rica as a consequence of what he published on the Internet.
1. David was arrested by agents of the Organismo de Investigación Judicial (known by its initals OIJ) on Friday, September 4th at Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO) in Costa Rica. He was arrested as he was leaving Costa Rica, with a return ticket to his home in Florida.
An English language newspaper published a story that Dave had been arrested entering the country. This may seem like a minor detail, but it’s important to understand the facts.
2. The OIJ reported in a confusing press release that it had arrested Dave as a suspect for the crime of “Sexual Tourism”.
Prostitution alone, in the conventional way that most people understand it (sex in exchange for money) is not a specific criminal offense in Costa Rica, provided that all parties are consenting adults.
The full text of the press release is here, on the OIJ Facebook Page.
The reference to “Sexual Tourism” is actually a citation to the heading of 162bis in the criminal code. A press release isn’t a court document, and the OIJ is not held to any standards in how they conduct their public relations. So, the OIJ can mix plain language with references to cryptic legal terms in documents intended for the mass media, and do so without a full explanation of the law.
3. Dave’s legal defense team believe that the OIJ may be building a case under Article 79 of Law 9095 (162bis of the amended criminal code).
The full text of the specific law is here on the website of the Poder Judicial.
Article 162 bis Sex Tourism
It shall be punished by imprisonment of four to eight years, who promotes or carries programs, campaigns or advertisements, using any means to project the country at national and international level as an accessible tourist destination for commercial sexual exploitation or prostitution people of any gender or age.
So, Dave is being held in prison because of what he may have published on the Internet, on his Facebook page or Youtube Channel. He is not in trouble for anything he did with a girl in Costa Rica. He did not commit any sex offense, he did not have sex with a minor or act a pimp as some uninformed reports have suggested. He is just a guy who wrote about his vacation in Costa Rica on the Internet.
4. Dave has not been charged with a criminal offense. He is imprisoned under a status called preventative detention.
Prosecutors argued at a preliminary hearing that David Strecker, because he is a foreigner (United States citizen) and had entered the country with a tourist visa is a flight risk. So, a judge ordered that he be held in prison while the OIJ continues it’s investigation. Due to rampant prison overcrowding, preventative detention is typically only used to detain suspects who are charged with violent crimes. An exception is made for foreigners, who are routinely imprisoned without trial.
5. Dave is in prison at the Penitenciario San Sebastián, located in southern San José.
Some reports have suggested that Dave is merely being held in some immigration jail, waiting to be deported or sent home to the United States. Nothing can be further from the truth. David Strecker is sleeping on the concrete floor of a prison cell that he shares with at least 12 other men, many of whom have been convicted for serious violent crimes. Because he does’t have the “seniority” of the other inmates, he doesn’t get the use of a bunk.
Dave has few, if no options. If convicted, he would receive 4 to 8 years in jail. However, he can’t even plead guilty and ask forgiveness because he hasn’t been charged with a crime. He is just another foreigner in a Costa Rican prison who is being held, indefinitely and without trial. Perhaps the biggest difference is that he is the first foreigner to be sent to prison in Costa Rica for something that he published on the Internet. He needs your help. If for any reason you cannot donate to his defense fund, contact others you know who can help. Love him or hate him, he is an American in trouble.