MIAMI (CBSMiami) – One of five men convicted in the kidnap, gang rape and murder of a South Miami High teen re-opened the wounds for the girl’s family Thursday.
Less than a week after accepting a 50-year prison sentence for the crimes, Hector Caraballo asked to withdraw his guilty plea, according to CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald.
In a three-page handwritten motion sent to the judge, Caraballo claims he didn’t understand the court interpreter who translated details of the plea deal.
“What Mr. Caraballo understood is that he will do 30 years in total, not 50,” wrote Caraballo, who was facing the death penalty if convicted at trial.
Caraballo was one of five Orlando men who police say kidnapped Ana Maria Angel, 18, and her boyfriend from South Beach in April 2002. Inside a truck and at gun point, the men gang raped Angel.
They left boyfriend Nelson Portobanco on the side of Interstate 95 in In Broward County, his throat slashed. He survived and alerted police, who mounted a massive search.
Prosecutors say Caraballo ordered her demise with a throat slashing motion across his neck. On the side of I-95 in Palm Beach County, co-defendant Joel Lebron walked Angel down an embankment, shooting her in the head as she fell to her knees, begging for her life.
Four of them men were convicted at jury trials. A jury last month recommended that Lebron be executed; Circuit Judge William Thomas will sentence him in December.
Miami-Dade prosecutors offered the plea to spare Portobanco and Angel’s mother, Margarita Osorio, the agony of testifying at a fifth trial.
Caraballo accepted the plea on Oct. 26 after extensive grilling from Judge Thomas, who wanted to make sure he understood the deal. Caraballo is a native Spanish speaker and is always assisted in hearings by a court interpreter.
The letter to the judge is written in decent English, although it is not unusual for other inmates to help pen letters for Spanish speakers.
He claims his court-appointed lawyers, Richard Houlihan and Bruce Fleisher, rushed him through the plea. In the past, Caraballo had tried unsuccessfully to kick them off his decade-old case.
They declined comment Thursday. No court date has been set in the matter, but the judge can set a hearing to consider whether to keep the plea in place.
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