San Jose Mercury News: De-Bug Increases Role as Legal Watchdog With Soros Justice Award

by Tracey Kaplan, April 5, 2010

Ramon Vasquez’s urban nightmare began when San Jose police surrounded him at gunpoint in a parking lot of a Coca-Cola distribution center. Instead of coaching his son’s Little League game that day, the soft-drink deliveryman wound up jailed for a gang-related murder, facing a possible life sentence.

Few outside his family and friends believed he was innocent until his fiancee heard about a free legal clinic offered every Sunday near downtown San Jose by the grass-roots group De-Bug.

With De-Bug’s help, all charges against Vasquez were dismissed and he was set free five months after being arrested.

In February, he was deemed factually innocent by a judge, erasing his record and increasing his chances of remuneration from the county.

“It was like I had a law firm behind me,” Vasquez, 29, said of De-Bug’s efforts, including urging his government-appointed attorney to mount a more aggressive defense. “I probably would have fallen through the cracks if it wasn’t for my family and De-Bug.”

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