Freedom of the press activists were biting fingernails alongside family members of the accused as judges read guilty verdicts in the murder case of radio journalist Parmenio Medina.
Infamous murder suspect Father Minor Calvo, a priest and host of the widely popular but now defunct Catholic radio station Radio María, was absolved of the murder charges, but convicted of fraud and sentenced to 15 years.
Two other suspects in the case, Omar Chaves, a business partner at the radio station, and Nicaraguan-born Luis Alberto Aguirre, known as “El Indio,” were convicted of murder and sentenced to 47 and 30 years in prison, respectively.
The long-awaited verdict comes after almost seven years of investigation and deliberation and a soap-opera-style drama that involved nine suspects, 110 witnesses, 800 pieces of evidence and countless threats and TV outbursts.
Medina was shot point-blank three times in the head and torso outside his home July 7, 2001, shortly after producing a series of investigative reports about Radio María, which was founded and managed by Calvo and bankrolled by partner Chaves (TT, Jan. 9, 2004).
According to the verdict, between 1999 and 2001, the radio station received nearly $3 million in donations, the majority of which Calvo and Chaves used to pay for luxuries that included cruises to the Bahamas and Florida, fine clothes and dining,DirecTV, a jet ski, two housekeepers and favors for family and friends. Unknowing donors believed the money was destined for the good causes Calvo stumped for on his radio show.
The case attracted the attention of advocacy groups, including Amnesty International, which questioned the police investigation.
Judges said they were unable to tie Chaves to the murder, but found 15 years of jail time suitable, considering the number of people he had betrayed.