A teen kidnapped by his own dad for 13 years pleaded with a court judge to release his father from jail.
Julian Hernandez, now 19, was taken from their Alabama home by his father, Bobby Hernandez, when he was only 5 years old. He took the witness stand on April 13 and told the court judge about what he really felt about his father.
Julian said his father loved and protected him more than anybody else during his life.
"I don't know what else to say other than not to send my father to jail," he said.
This, along with Julian's other touching testimonies about his father were the most persuasive statements while deciding on a sentence, says Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Cassandra Collier-Williams.
Flashback To The Scene Of The Crime
The year was 2002. Bobby came to babysit then preschooler Julian in his mother's home in Birmingham, Alabama. However, he soon took his son away, leaving only a note that said they went fishing, but never returned back.
The father and son duo then lived in Cleveland, Ohio and used different names. Bobby was able to obtain a driver's license and Social Security card under the name Jonathan Mangina. Julian, on the other hand, was known as J.J., according to a neighbor.
Julian lived under a new name and even a new birthday. He was able to obtain straight-A grades in high school, managed to stay away from drugs and alcohol in the midst of peer pressure and sustained his status as a student athlete. He is now looking to bag a college scholarship.
Julian said his father was always there for him and would provide whatever it is he needed. Ultimately, his dad helped him whenever he had problems.
As Julian entered his senior year in Cleveland High School, one of the most prominent thing in his mind was to get into college. He started obtaining requirements for college applications, but encountered some problems with his Social Security number.
Julian asked for help from the school's guidance counselor, who subsequently discovered that Julian was included in the list of missing people by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Collier-Williams described the crime as a horrific action for any parent. With this, she sentenced Bobby to four years imprisonment, followed by five years of supervised release. The range of prison sentence that a judge can give to a person with this type of crime is from three to 54 years.
The judge also revoked the restraining order that prevented Julian from seeing his father during the arrest in November 2015.
Collier-Williams acknowledged that the crime is a mother's worst nightmare, but then she also considered the testimonies of the child and the way his life turned out after 13 years.
People Against the Father
Despite the touching moment, not everyone was pleased. Julian's maternal grandmother thinks Bobby should be served with the maximum sentence of 54 years imprisonment.
The grandmother wrote in a statement read by attorney Gloria Allred that Bobby was a vengeful person, who took Julian to get even with the boy's mother who left him.
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty was also not happy with the decision. He said Bobby had threatened Julian's mother to kidnap their son if she would leave him.
McGinty believes that this is one of the greatest crimes in history and thus, warrants a very long imprisonment to prevent him and others like him to do this sort of act in the future.
Julian came to the rescue of his father and said that even if it was painful to grow up without a mother, taking his father away will just add up to the pain.
"Taking him from me now is just doing the same thing all over again," he said.
Where Is the Mother?
Julian's mother was not present during the court hearing, but Allred also read a statement coming from her.
The mother recalled how Julian had such a sweet smile and chubby cheeks. The boy would love to hear at least three bedtime stories every night. They were happy, but then their lives changed forever on Aug. 28, 2002, when Julian was kidnapped.
A little mystery was noticed by the judge, though, as the police report filed immediately during the incident and the statement released by the mother during the recent court hearing had some discrepancies.
In the police report, the mother said Julian's clothes and toys were missing when she arrived home during that day. In the recent statement, she said that her son's clothes and Lego toys were left behind.
Now, the boy stands up today for his father and the mother has no opinion on whether the offender must go to prison or not, Collier-Williams said.
Bobby apologized to his son, his mother and family while shedding tears, a few minutes before his sentence was served.