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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Corrections secretary says ‘inconsistencies’ found in released killer’s case files, delivers documents to Justice

Rehabilitation and Corrections Secretary Ana Escobar Pabón

By The Star Staff

The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (DCR) on Thursday referred to the Department of Justice the preliminary findings of the evaluation made of medical records of inmate Hermes Ávila Vázquez.

In addition, the agency provided a certified copy of the complete file of the Ávila Vázquez Community Program, the certified list of all program officials who were in charge of supervising this inmate, and their contact information.

“Yesterday afternoon, UTI Corp, a company with the expertise to evaluate medical records, delivered the results of the preliminary audit of the last six volumes of Ávila’s medical record, so I immediately referred the case to the Department of Justice to initiate its investigation,” DCR Secretary Ana Escobar Pabón said in a written statement. “In this way, the purity of the research is guaranteed. Meanwhile, and in compliance with a subpoena issued by the Department of Justice on April 29, all the requested documents were delivered.”

Regarding the findings of the audit, the DCR secretary said it was possible to verify inconsistencies in the documentation, discrepancies in the diagnoses and the absence of evidence that confirms the diagnoses made of the inmate, among other confidential issues that are part of a medical record.

“I am aware of the pressing need that the victim’s family, the people and the Government of Puerto Rico have to know the result of this investigation,” Escobar Pabón said. “For this reason, I have expedited the delivery of files to the Department of Justice so that it can begin its investigation. The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation will continue its administrative investigation in parallel and will refer the findings to the prosecutors in charge of this investigation.”

Justice Secretary Domingo Emanuelli Hernández, meanwhile, confirmed on Thursday the initiation of an investigation to examine whether any crime was involved in the process of release of the convict Ávila Vázquez, whom the Department of Justice prosecuted for murder in 2005 and, on April 22, filed new charges against him for the feminicide of Ivette Joan Meléndez Vega.

Emanuelli Hernández stated that the Justice Department on Thursday received a series of documents compiled by the DCR as part of the administrative investigation initiated by that agency.

“Since last week, at the Department of Justice we have been preparing and holding several internal meetings to outline the most effective investigation strategy,” he said. “Likewise, we advanced several information requirements.”

The Justice Department issued some seven subpoenas aimed at obtaining information and documents from different public and private agencies and corporations.

Emanuelli Hernández said the investigation “will be comprehensive and meticulous, so that the truth is known and whoever has failed assumes the consequences.”

“We will require all the information that is necessary from any public or private entity that can contribute to the investigative process,” he reiterated. “We will act with the responsibility that characterizes us, without giving in to pressures or agendas of any kind. The investigation will be carried out with priority and agility, but it will take the time necessary to discover the truth and determine if a crime was committed.”

Separately on Thursday, Popular Democratic Party (PDP) at-large Senate candidate Carlos Díaz Sánchez, as he has been doing over the past few weeks, pointed to what he termed acts of negligence, corruption and poor public administration by Escobar Pabón at the DCR.

Díaz Sánchez was flanked at a press conference by Senate President José Luis Dalmau Santiago and several PDP candidates for seats in the island House of Representatives and Senate.

Díaz Sánchez asked Escobar Pabón for evidence of the tender held to award the $242,000 contract for a single day of work to stage the Correctional Congress at the Coca-Cola Music Hall for 500 custody officers even though there are 4,500.

The former New Progressive Party senator showed photographs depicting the event’s low participation.

“This contract was awarded without a bid, [and with] a waiver from the OATRH [Office of Administration and Transformation of Human Resources] to be able to contract resources that the University of Puerto Rico [UPR] has and that every government entity is obliged to consider as a first option,” the Senate candidate said.

Díaz Sánchez requested that the DCR secretary present evidence of the public auction carried out and that it has the OATRH waiver exempting it from compliance with Law 8-2017. Additionally, he challenged assertions that UPR refused to provide the necessary resources for the event and whether the Financial Oversight and Management Board was notified of the contract.

Ramón Torres, a former DCR deputy secretary and one of the PDP House candidates present at the press conference, said Escobar Pabón failed to comply with the contract awarding procedure, since “the amount of this contract required a formal auction.”

“For these reasons, we will be requesting that the award file be made public,” he said.

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