Cumbia singer L-Gante was freed from pre-trial detention Friday after a 94-day stay in prison following his arrest on June 6. L-Gante, whose real name is Elián Ángel Valenzuela, is charged with kidnapping and threatening neighbor Darío Torres as well as kidnapping Torres’ mother, Rosa Passi. He is also facing charges of drug possession and being in possession of stolen property.
The singer was released around 11 p.m and spoke briefly to the press that was huddled in front of the Quilmes detention center where he has been since his arrest. “We got through it, being in jail is obviously not fun,” said L-Gante before getting into a car and leaving along with family members and his attorney, Diego Storto.
“I took advantage of this time to think clearly, get mentally tougher, take better care of myself, don’t give in to bad things and get on doing the things I want to do,” he continued.
District Judge Gabriel Castro ordered the singer’s release following a request from his lawyer based on the appearance of new testimonies, which the judge said “offer a completely different version of events than what was known at the time pre-detention was determined.”
“Based on a reassessment of the evidence presented, it is my understanding that the accused Valenzuela should be immediately released in order to guarantee the principle of ‘in dubio pro reo’ [when in doubt, rule for the accused] and the general rule that the accused be free during this process until he is sentenced, more so when the doubts that have been raised in my opinion turn the current pre-detention status into something unreasonable and unjust,” said Castro.
According to judiciary sources, prosecutor Raúl Villalba will appeal the decision. Last week, Villalba sent a note requesting the case go to trial, stating that “based on the investigation and evidence gathered, the accused’s involvement in the incidents for which he is currently detained have been proved.”
“In light of the fact that the criminal conduct Valenzuela is accused of carries a stiff prison sentence, he would serve mandatory prison time if convicted,” he added. Villalba is asking that L-Gante be sentenced to 8 years in prison.
The judge has still not ruled on this issue.
On May 27, Gastón Torres, a neighbor of L-Gante’s family in the town of General Rodríguez, Buenos Aires province, reported to the police that he had argued in a nightclub with a group of the singer’s friends known as “the Mafily” (la Mafilia – the wordplay works in both languages). Torres claims that after the quarrel, members of the Mafily went to his house and assaulted him and his family.
Members of the Urban Guard arrived at the scene to break up the fight and identify the aggressors. When they left, L-Gante allegedly threatened Torres with a firearm, forced him into a car, and told him he should not speak against the “Mafily.”
After some “Mafily” members were later arrested, L-Gante returned to the city officials’ car and said to the agents: “Release my friends or I’ll kill this one”, referencing the person he had in his car.
According to the claim, Torres was captive for 23 minutes, and was only released after L-Gante received a phone call informing him that his friends had been freed.
L-Gante’s defense’s made multiple requests for the singer to be released pending trial, which were all rejected. In one ruling, judge Castro said that, while “diminished,” a risk remained that Valenzuela could interfere with the investigation if released.
– with information from Télam