A man who was wrongfully charged with the brutal murder of a 16-year-old may soon join his family.
Judge Steven F. Day issued a $2,000 bond Thursday afternoon for the release of Marvin Melgar, 21, in a 20-minute immigration hearing at the John F. Kennedy Federal Building.
“This is case of mistaken identity” said Jonathan Ng, Melgar’s attorney.
Melgar was originally indicted for the murder of Christofer de la Cruz in a federal sweep of alleged MS-13 members in the Boston region on January 29. A month after his arrest, all charges against Melgar pertaining to the MS-13 sweep were dropped.
Jario Perez, 24, Edwin Diaz, 18, Edwin Gonzalez, 20, still face charges for de la Cruz’s murder. Rigoberto Mejia was indicted for de la Cruz’s murder after Melgar’s charges were dismissed.
Melgar, who came to the United States from El Salvador illegally when he was 15, has since remained in custody by Immigration Customs Enforcement.
Melgar’s attorney argued that his client’s wrongful arrest may make him a candidate for asylum.
“His life will probably never be the same,” said Ng, who cited the federal detention affidavit detailing MS-13’s pattern of murdering those who cooperate with police as well as their families.
Melgar’s arrest and subsequent release may make the wrong impression to gang members, who may believe he was let go because he cooperated, argued Ng.
“We have to consider the humanitarian aspect of this,” said Ng.
Even without receiving asylum, Ng said, Melgar is a candidate for obtaining legal residency. His wife, who he married January 2015, is an American citizen, and they have a 9-month-old daughter.
After joining family in the United States when he was 15, Melgar attended East Boston High School, where he was a captain of his soccer team and took Advanced Placement courses. His teachers wrote statements on his behalf, said Ng.
In the hearing today, Ng said his client has been held in solitary confinement—for his own protection—for the last two months. “He’s not dangerous to the public or community, and he’s not a flight risk by any means,” said Ng.
Prosecutor Tom Masters countered Ng’s argument that because the federal charges against Melgar were dropped, it means he is not a threat.
“I don’t believe that that means exactly what the council was asserting,” Masters said. “That doesn’t mean he’s not a gang member or anything like that.”
Though Day cited an exhibit presented by the government that indicated Melgar had been observed walking with a known gang member, he decided it was not enough evidence to keep Melgar detained while he attempts to obtain legal residency.
“Thank you very much, your honor,” said Melgar, who turned to smile at his 11 family members in attendance, three of whom were in tears.
“That was really bad because he wasn’t that kind of person,” said Melgar’s wife, Fany Santos, after the hearing.
The two met in 2010 at Bethel Central Church in Revere when Melgar first came to the U.S. They dated throughout high school.
Santos recalled her shock after Melgar left their Chelsea home to go to work at a restaurant and returned home in handcuffs, accompanied by law enforcement. It wasn’t until she went to court that she learned her husband had been charged with murder.
“I know in my country, [MS-13] exists, but here? I didn’t know, really,” said Santos, who is from Honduras.
Melgar will remain in custody of ICE pending a potential appeal.