(NEW YORK) — A teen who was kidnapped when he was 5 years old by his father pleaded with the court Wednesday not to send the man to prison, saying he was well taken care of by him while growing up in Ohio.
Despite the emotional testimony, Bobby Hernandez, 53, the Ohio father who was convicted of kidnapping his son from his mother in Alabama in 2002, was sentenced to four years in prison.
Hernandez was arrested in November after his son, Jonathan, met with his high school guidance counselor to apply for college. Jonathan’s counselor realized something was wrong when he couldn’t validate the fake Social Security number his dad had created for him and found him in a database for missing children.
Jonathan, whose name was Julian before he was kidnapped, appeared in court Wednesday pleading for his father to be forgiven and not be sent to jail.
“He loved me and protected me more than anybody else I’ve ever known in my life, and whenever I needed something he would make it happen,” Jonathan said.
The now 18-year-old compared his father being sentenced to prison to how “painful” it was to grow up without his mother.
“Taking my father away from me now just increases the pain from that,” he said, adding that the family “needs him more than anything else.”
Bobby Hernandez’s fiancee and two neighbors also testified to what a good and loving father he is.
The prosecution read victim impact statements from Jonathan’s mother, his maternal grandparents and his mother’s best friend, who all allege that Hernandez kidnapped Jonathan as revenge for a breakup. They said Jonathan’s mother was dedicated and hard-working, adding that the family has traveled to four different states in the last 13 years to follow up on any leads of his whereabouts, which all came up empty-handed.
Hernandez said he takes full responsibility for what he did but maintained that Jonathan was “always the most important person.” He will have the option to appeal his sentence within 30 days.
Jonathan was reported missing by his mother in Alabama in August 2002, according to police. When Jonathan learned of his true identity, he said he simply wanted be a “normal 18-year-old.”
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