- Associated Press - Monday, July 27, 2015

July 27—A judge Monday vacated the sentence for a man who had falsely taken the blame for his son in a fatal hit-and-run crash.

Juan G. Silva, 45, of Milwaukee was ordered released from incarceration in the same courtroom where — in May 2014 — he was sentenced to five years in prison.

Silva Sr. lied during his confession, plea and sentencing after the September 2013 crash. He wanted to protect his son, Juan G. Silva Jr., now 22, from jail time. Silva Sr. turned himself in to police the day after the crash and carried his story all the way through until police uncovered that he did not actually drive the car that night.

Last month, a co-worker of Claudia Sanchez, the senior Silva’s wife, told a police officer that Sanchez had said her husband was behind bars for a crime he did not commit to keep their son out of prison.

Police officers interviewed Sanchez and eventually got the full story from her. Silva Jr. then confessed. On Thursday, the younger Silva was charged with three felony accounts, including hit-and-run resulting in death.

Assistant District Attorney Grant Huebner said the senior Silva was then informed of his son’s confession while in jail, and Huebner and others in the court suggested getting to the dismissal hearing as soon as possible.

Silva Sr. said to Huebner that his son was “messed up in the head” because he was in jail for him. His attorney, Hans Koesser, said Silva Sr. was disappointed his son had not done more to get his life in order while his father was in prison.

Under oath Monday, the older Silva told the true story in court for the first time.

Around 10:30 p.m. the night of Sept. 28, 2013, a white GMC van ran over a pair of pedestrians outside Ela de Copas Tavern in the 1200 block of W. National Ave.

Juan R. Zapata-Guerrero, 39, died while Angalee Jacobs, 43, suffered a broken leg, broken ribs, torn ligaments in her knee and developed a gash on her head that required nine staples to close. Jacobs was walking Zapata-Guerrero out of the tavern as she was about to give him a ride home.

The next day, Silva Jr., in a hysterical state, told his father he initially thought he hit a dog. Because he didn’t want his son to experience jail, Silva Sr. then went to police and said he was the one who drove the van. He blamed the crash on faulty windshield wipers and being on his cellphone and said he remembered hitting “something.”

Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Timothy Dugan had sentenced the older Silva based on his false confession. On Monday, Dugan said that while being untruthful in a courtroom is serious, it was best that Silva Sr. be released. That way, attention can shift solely on Silva Jr., who faces up to six years in prison.

A large contingent of Silva’s family showed up in the courtroom Monday. Koesser said while the family was relieved to have Silva Sr. back, they were undoubtedly feeling somber about the prospects of his son now having to “face the music.”

“Of course, I’m not a mind-reader, but my sense is that this is maybe what you might describe as a bittersweet situation,” Koesser said.

The Silva family isn’t the only one affected. Dugan also said this lie being uncovered has made the victims relive a horrific experience. Jacobs confirmed that Monday via a Facebook message.

“The anger, hate, sorrow, depression, PTSD, guilt, even the physical pain from my broke ribs came back to me when I heard this sickening news,” she said. “I am in total shock we have to go through this again.”

Jacobs also said she doesn’t necessarily believe Silva Sr. is now telling the truth and, if he is, questions why he let his son live a lie.

“What kind of parent does that?” Jacobs said.

Zapata-Guerrero left behind a wife and three children.

The senior Silva could be released within the next few days, Koesser said.

Silva Jr.’s attorney, Basil Loeb, did not return calls seeking comment.

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(c)2015 the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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Topics: t000002458,t000002481,t000199057,t000002478


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