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Jan 31, 2007

G.G. pardons convicted rapist as victim recants testimony

To our knowledge it has never happened before, but today we have received news that the Governor General, on the advice of the Belize Advisory Council, has exercised the prerogative of mercy to set free a convicted criminal who has been shown to be innocent. The man in question, Omar Vellos, was sentenced to twenty years in prison for Rape, Kidnapping, and committing an Unnatural Crime, along with fellow perpetrators Mark Vega and Luis Urbina. The pardon, which occurred just before Christmas, was never officially announced and was somehow kept off the media radar until today. Why was Vellos set free? According to judicial sources, the victim of the crimes had second thoughts after her court testimony; that while she was sure of the identification of Vega and Urbina, she was not so certain about Vellos. That doubt was solidified when after the trial she saw the real assailant for whom she had mistaken Vellos. Haunted that an innocent man may have been erroneously jailed, in 2005 the witness approached the D.P.P.’s office with her story, but was apparently rebuffed and threatened with perjury charges. Attorney Dickie Bradley took on Vello’s case in 2006 and armed with the victim’s exculpatory testimony and cooperation, navigated the procedure of section fifty-two of the constitution and won this first ever pardon for his client.

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