Injustice in Virginia-Tattoos and mental illness makes for an easy target to incarcerate.

Injustice in Virginia-Tattoos and mental illness makes for an easy target to incarcerate.

CURE Illinois calls for investigation into incarceration of Jesse Lugaro:
The more we learn about the incarceration of Jesse Lugaro, the more we see him very unfortunate to be in Virginia. The only thing worse about being mentally ill and being caught up in the legal system is to have an Attorney who is not following legal ethics and a Judge making up his mind without closing arguments. Based upon the mother’s representations, we believe an investigation should be made into his convictions and his incarceration. We find it very disturbing if witnesses who could have helped him were not called. We find it very disturbing that his Attorney will not do anything about starting an appeal.. We find it very disturbing that he is also being charged for crime that took place over 10 years ago because a hat with his DNA was at the crime scene. Furthermore, we are very concerned about him being suicidal. The best things that Jesse has going is his mother April who loves him and continuously advocates for him. It’s time to listen and investigate. Jesse needs an Attorney who can help him.  His mother cannot afford one.

Here is an edited version of Jesse’s Story by his mother-April-Jesses mother lost her own mother to suicide in 1996.  On May 5th, Jesse’s Attorney announced he will remove himself from the case.  Jesse needs an Attorney to file an Appeal and defend him on a new set of charges.

Jesse Lugaro

Jesse’s mother April Esposito knew at a young age that Jesse had mental illness.  For his first five years of school, he would hide in his jacket.  Jesse is bi-polar among other diagnosis, believed to stem from hereditary autism and has taken drugs in past years to self-medicate after years of having to be on medication.  The state threatened to take away her son at an early age if he did not take medication.  Jesse is a 31 years old with the mind of a child. He put tattoos on his body because he does not like himself.  This makes him look likes he is guilty to some people.   In 2010, Jesse tried to kill himself three times.  After one of the attempts, he woke up in the hospital and jumped off the roof..   Jesse has made mistakes.  However after the last suicide attempt, he was trying to turn himself around.  He cries to his mother at night even at his current age of 31, asking why he has to be this way.  He has been unable to hold a job, but has tried many times. He has been denied SSI, over and over again saying he has to be handicapped over a year, when he has been since he was 5, hence, denying him a way of getting the medication he has been taking for years and denying him a way of supporting himself.

In 2002 Jesse left home and moved to Delaware at the request of his step-father. Because his step father and he could not get along, Jesse was not allowed to return home. In 2012 Jesse was going back home to his mother to stay so she could help him, now that she was no longer with her ex husband.  Jesse had to straighten out some tickets of driving without a license before he could stay home in North Carolina, thou. On 11/16/12, Jesse called his mother to come get him a he was finished with court about the driving tickets. His mother has panic attacks driving and asked Jesse to get a ride home. Jesse called numerous people before meeting up with the girls and  a man by the name Chris. On 1/30/13 Jesse went back to Virginia to make his statement, only to be lied to by the detective and arrested with the promise of the charges being dropped. Because of Jesse’s mental state he believed the detective and waved his rights to an attorney. He has been in Jail ever since being denied any kind of bail A trial took place on May 19, 2014 for the incidents relating in trying to get back home on 11/16/2012.  Jesse was convicted of the charges of various counts of robbing of a residence and use of a firearm in commission of a felony even with the testimonies of the victims saying that it was Chris who had the gun. The sentencing date is June 24, 2014 for the charges of various counts of robbing of a residence and use of a firearm in commission of a felony. Jesse and his mother are very afraid that his attorney will continue doing his own will and not file an appeal as they are requesting.

Here is an edited detailed  version of Jesse’s Story by his mother-April-

Jesses mother lost her own mother to suicide.

My son Jesse was trying to find a ride home to me from Virginia to North Carolina. He met up with people that said they were going to a party and that after they would drive him home to me in NC.  At this party, Chris who was part of the group he went there with, had a few drinks and flipped out.  He started beating people up, as he thought about what his girlfriend kept complaining to him about her getting beat up just 2 weeks earlier by some guys that were friends with the people at this party. He pulled out a gun and started pistol whipping them to. Chris even threatened my son to stand in the corner. He tried to get my son to help him but in shock of what was happening, and not wanting to be a part of it, my son stood there with his hands in his pockets. The only time he moved was to pull Chris off a guy he was kicking his face in because he couldn’t take watching it anymore. The guy tried to make my son help him but my son didn’t move. Jesse did not know what to do. So as soon as he could he went back to the car he came in with the girls and Chris got in the car too and threatened to kill all of them if they ratted him out. He made them go to his mother’s house. Jesse called his mother not knowing what to say.  He started talking about the end of the world. He was not making sense and she did not pick up that he was in a bad situation and continued asking when he was coming back home. Jesse got them to bring him home to my house with the catch of them staying. It was the day before Thanksgiving. When Jesse showed up, he grabbed me, pulled me in my room, jumped into my arms and started crying. When I asked what was wrong, he said Chris did something wrong and he thinks he got him in trouble. I asked if he did anything and he swore he didn’t do anything, just Chris. I told him to let them come in an lets get threw thanksgiving and we will figure out what we have to do to straighten this out. I questioned everyone and everyone said Jesse had nothing to do with anything. I did however learn the girls had a warrant for their arrest even thou I was not sure what for.   We talked the girls into turning themselves in since there was an outstanding warrant.   My son finally got Chris to go back to his Virginia, home since I was scared of him. I was informed he was also bi polar but I was very nervous him being in my home.  Jesse and I talked about how to get him to leave and Jesse said he will find a way. Chris fired the gun outside of my home but I never saw it. I told Jesse that he has to get that gun away from my home as I do not like guns, I told Chris this also, so Chris said he got rid of it.  As soon as we knew who to talk to, I called them and told the detective the story including how my son has a severe mental illness, anoxic brain injury and ,suicidal tendencies among other diagnosis and that he wasn’t trying to do anything wrong.  He was a victim and was just trying to get home to me. The detective first said he understood and knew my son was innocent because the guy who did it even said so., but then this turned out to be a lie. My son went back to Virginia to give his statement and tell the truth and waved his rights to an Attorney believing the detective. The detective said he was going to get the charges dropped as he promised but he didn’t. If I had known that the detective was going to arrest him, I would have had a lawyer with him. When I told the detective, he was mentally ill he said it wasn’t his job to prove his innocence. He also said the tattoos on his face and his past mistake would be reason enough to convict him, and it was . Jesse got charged with what the guy did. Chris is getting 15 yrs for this. He took a deal. They want to give my son life when he was actually a victim. They think he was lying about trying to get a ride home. We have witnesses. The detective told me it wasn’t his job to prove my sons innocence.  There are other people Jesse called for a ride. Their only witness at the trial was that guy’s girlfriend who edged that guy into flipping. She changed her story 5 times. and said on the stand that I helped her make up her story. That was not true.. She also admitted that she hated my son and that she was testifying to stay out of prison herself. Three of the victims stated my son didn’t do anything; the 4th victim wasn’t sure because he was the one that my son pulled the guy off him. My son said that the guy tried to hit him as he was trying to help him.

 At the trial, his court appointed Attorney told him he was going to have a bench trial. He did not give my son a choice, he did as he saw fit.  His Attorney had no defense set up for him.  I should have been called as a witness as well as other people but I was not . I could tell The judge already had his mind made up before he came out. He didn’t pay attention to anyone’s testimony and He even told the prosecutors not to make their closing statement because he already had his mind made up. My son was found guilty on all counts and my son didn’t even touch the gun or do anything but try to stop it. They did not even have the gun as evidence either. His lawyer’s statement said he’s supposed to be innocent till proven guilty and they failed to prove he was guilty but the judge didn’t care. “When I questioned he lawyer after the trial, he said he has to say that and defended the judge’s actions. The lawyer didn’t call any witnesses or present evidence he had either. I gave him a picture of that kid with a machine gun, and this disproved part of their witness’s statement. He actually stuck up for the judge saying he’s a good guy and  that he is  good friends with him.. My son did not have a fair trial at all.  He said many times, prison isn’t living and if he goes to prison for trying to do right, he might as well end it. His lawyer told him he cant win an appeal, leaving us to believe he will not file an appeal. His Attorney is pushing him to kill himself. He calls my sons mental illness, drama. He goes there and talks to my son with such distain that my son gets upset every time.  The court appointed Doctor said my son is very ill. His report says he believes he has schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type and character biological problems. It says he will need ongoing and intensive mental health and substance abuse care in and future placement but I am sure they will not care when they send him to prison. He is still very much suicidal.

New Charges:

They are trying to pin an attempted robbery from over 10 yrs ago to my son that happened on May 26, 2003.  The only proof they have is DNA from a hat at the crime scene my son to.  There are no witnesses and no other proof but that does not matter to them. With these charges they are putting kidnapping charges in there.  They want him to take a deal for 30 years for the new charges and the first conviction will be decided in June. I can’t get anyone to help me and I am out of money being disabled myself.

I wish my son was normal because none of this would have happened but he is disabled.  I live in North Carolina now. Virginia Beach is one of the worst places to live. A have seen them lock up so many young mentally ill people and don’t even try to help them. He’s been in there for over a year,  and denied bail. Visits are through video TV so why would I other. His rights are being violated, he is not getting the proper treatment he needs and his mental health is slowly deteriorating. Since this happened, it sickens me how many others they are doing this too. My sons need a lawyer to fight for his innocence but yet I cannot find one pro bono lawyer to help me and I know they are out there but for over a year now, all I get is referred to legal aid and or the Virginia law referral which charges money to get you a paid atty. I cannot find any organization to help me either. They just say they are sorry. Why does my son have to die for them to wake up?

Jess recently received a new court appointed Attorney.



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