David “Cuba Dave” Strecker is set to finish out a full year in preventive prison for allegations of promoting sex tourism in Costa Rica. The 65-year-old U.S. citizen was captured at the Juan Santamaría International Airport in September on suspicion of violating the country’s Sex Tourism Law with a website and other social media outlets that provide information about prostitution in various Latin American countries, including Costa Rica.
Following a preliminary hearing in a San José court Thursday morning, Strecker told The Tico Times that his preventive prison sentence had been extended yet again, this time to Sept. 4, marking one full year that he’ll spend behind bars.
Strecker said he was formally presented with charges Thursday for the first time. He said a judge told him that if his case were brought to trial, he could be sentenced up to 12 years in prison.
Strecker spoke to The Tico Times by phone from La Reforma jail. His public defense lawyer for the hearing, Mauricio Antillán, was not available for comment Thursday.
Costa Rica’s Sex Tourism Law, which Strecker is accused of violating, calls for a maximum of eight years, but the Key West, Florida native said prosecutors are looking to try him for three different charges relating to the same crime.
“That’d be like giving the guy the death penalty for jaywalking,” Strecker said. He was unclear exactly what the charges were when he spoke with The Tico Times Thursday.
In November, a spokeswoman from the prosecutor’s office told The Tico Times that charges are based on provisions of the 2013 Human Trafficking Law that prohibit promoting sex tourism.
“The criminal case began after various publications were found on the Internet made by the suspect in which he was apparently inviting other North Americans to visit Costa Rica, indicating that prostitution services in the country were easy to find,” she said.
Prostitution among consenting adults is legal in Costa Rica.
Strecker, who will turn 66 in a few weeks, was transferred to the senior wing of La Reforma jail in February after five months in the overcrowded San Sebastián prison.
In Costa Rica, preventive prison sentences generally cannot exceed 12 months. However, in exceptional cases, such as individuals accused of being involved in organized crime, a judge can order preventive prison for up to 18 months. To extend Stecker’s time in pretrial detention even longer, the prosecution would have to prove to a judge that Strecker is part of a criminal network that operates in prostitution or trafficking.
After cycling through several private lawyers, Strecker has turned to public defense. He said multiple lawyers and advisors have told him that the prosecution doesn’t have much evidence against him except for Facebook and blog posts taken from pages sporting his “Cuba Dave” brand name.
“I know I didn’t break a law, but I’m trapped here,” Strecker said when The Tico Times visited him at La Reforma prison in June. “There’s a big difference between promoting and informing. What I ran was a travel website.”
Strecker said during that visit that he would be willing to take a plea deal that includes a lifetime ban from Costa Rica and that takes into account his time served in preventive prison.
“You get your hopes up sometimes but I’ve been through this for so long that I really don’t get my hopes up anymore,” he said.