Juan G. Silva admitted he gave a false confession to protect his son in a 2013 Milwaukee hit-and-run

By Maria Coder
Updated July 28, 2015 11:50 AM
Michael Sears/Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel/AP;Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office

A Milwaukee father falsely confessed to a deadly hit-and-run crash and took a five-year prison sentence to protect his son – who was actually behind the wheel, authorities say.

Juan Silva Sr., 45, served more than one year behind bars for the 2013 death of Juan R. Zapata-Guerrero, a 39-year-old father of three, his lawyer, Hans Koesser, told NBC. Angalee Jacobs, 43, who suffered multiple injuries, survived.

Silva’s son, Juan Silva Jr., 22, has now been charged with the crime. He has waived his right to trial and jail and is due in court in August, authorities said.

The surprising turn of events came about when a co-worker of Silva’s wife told authorities she had mentioned her husband had taken the fall to protect their son, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel first reported.

The revelation led investigators back to their files on the Sept. 28, 2013, crash.

Shortly after the story unraveled, Silva Sr., his wife and their son came clean.

They told investigators that the younger Silva had come home that night, upset, and said he’d just hit something, Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney Grant Huebner said. When the father saw on the news that someone had died, he decided to take the rap to spare his son.

Juan Silva Sr. recently had a change of heart. “I think my client thought that his son would use this as an opportunity to better his life, go to school, get a job, but in fact, it had just the opposite effect,” said Hans Koesser, attorney for Silva Sr.

The father will not face charges for the false confession, Huebner said, though the prosecutor remains unsympathetic.

“I think it’s a complete manipulation of the system,” Huebner told NBC. “What you have is, you have basically a family that decided they were going to decide amongst themselves who should pay the price, instead of a judge or a jury or the system.”

Authorities then had to inform Zapata-Guerrero’s family that the wrong man had been sent to prison for his death, Huebner said.

After hearing the news, Jacobs took to Facebook to share her thoughts.

“I am in total shock that we are going to have to go through this again,” she wrote, in a lengthy post, which also said: “a parent, especially a father is suppose to teach his child right from wrong not encourage lies and deception.”

Silva Sr.’s conviction was thrown out on Monday.

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