SAN DIEGO - A man who spent two years in Nicaragua's most notorious prison gave thanks to students in San Diego who helped set him free.
On Monday, 35-year-old Jason Puracal was all smiles yet still getting used to life outside the walls of prison as he appeared inside a moot court room at the California Western School of Law.
Puracal spent two years of a 22-year sentence behind bars for crimes he says he did not commit.
"Sometimes I wake up and I don't know where I am," Puracal told 10News.
In a room of dozens of law school students, Puracal told his story of how he was falsely imprisoned for almost two years.
The Washington state native was living and working in Nicaragua with his wife and young son when he was arrested at his successful real estate business. He was charged with drug trafficking, money laundering and organized crime.
"I just thought they were out of their minds," Puracal said. "Why would they think of these things?"
Puracal's younger sister Janis, who is an attorney based out of Seattle, heard what had happened and jumped into action.
"If ever I was going to get an education, it was going to be this case," she told 10News.
She contacted Justin Brooks at California Western's California Innocence Project.
"To have them be overseas in a prison run by a government that is not necessarily sympathetic to the United States… it just seemed like it was going to be an impossible task," Brooks told 10News.
It was challenging but not impossible. After almost two years of hard work and worldwide attention, Puracal stood face-to-face with those who helped set him free.
His sister told 10News having him home is still hard to get used to.
"It's still an unreal situation for me," she said. "Every time I wake up in the morning, I still think I need to rush to my cell phone or my computer I need to figure out what needs to be done for the day. I still feel like I am in the heat of that battle."
Audrey McGinn of the California Innocence Project told 10News, "After seeing everybody come together and finally getting to meet him today, it was absolutely incredible."
The California Innocence Project reviews approximately 2,000 claims each year. The project has exonerated nine wrongfully convicted people since 1999.