DENVER — Jason Hogan was convicted in 2000 for kidnapping and robbing a Cherry Creek shopper, letting her go after getting $1,000 from the victim. He was sentenced to 77 years in prison.
But now, Hogan has been released from the Cañon City facility he’s been housed in for more than 20 years after the Denver District Attorney’s Office reached a plea deal, according to an announcement from the DA’s office Tuesday.
Hogan, now 43, maintains his innocence, claiming the investigation was mishandled by police from the beginning.
According to police, the victim was at the mall shopping with family members when she went to her vehicle in the parking garage. When she was getting in her van, she was approached by a man, described as a white male in his late teens or early 20s, with a gun who told her to drive him to a bank.
At the bank, the suspect ordered the victim to write a $1,000 check, and the victim and suspect, sitting in the passenger seat of the victim’s minivan, went through the drive-up teller line where she gave the suspect the money, according to the narrative in Hogan’s arrest warrant.
After the bank withdrawal, the suspect was dropped off at a nearby strip mall but warned the victim to not call police before he fled on foot from the strip mall. The victim identified Hogan in a lineup as the man who kidnapped and robbed her about a week after the incident, the warrant said.
The March 2, 2000, incident was part of a string of similar robberies of women at the shopping center. Denver7 reported at the time that police and mall officials were taking the incidents seriously and beefing up patrols.
On Tuesday, Denver District Attorney Beth McCann announced that after Hogan, represented by the Korey Wise Innocence Project, presented his case to DA’s newly-formed Conviction Review Unit team, she agreed to a new plea agreement to which Hogan pleaded guilty via an Alford plea to second-degree kidnapping and was resentenced to time served.
Under the Alford plea, Hogan maintains his innocence but admits that there is evidence that, if believed by a jury, could lead to his conviction. McCann said she talked to the victim in the case before agreeing to the deal.
On Tuesday evening, Hogan celebrated his freedom surrounded by friends and family.
“An Alford plea is basically like a no contest. You're not pleading guilty. You're not pleading not guilty. You're pleading, basically, like this is in my best interest," Hogan said. “This Alford plea certainly wasn't justice. It was a compromise. And I think that the state really walked away with a win, you know. But I got my freedom.”
In a 2014 blog post, Hogan claimed that the investigators failed to test for fingerprints on the victim’s driver’s license the suspect had allegedly handed during the robbery. Hogan also claimed that the victim told police that the assailant had tattoos on his hands, yet Hogan said he did not have any markings on his hands.
The Korey Wise Innocence Project said they found new evidence that should have been presented in the original trial. That evidence included:
- The victim in the second case failed to pick Hogan’s picture from a photo line-up and said the man who robbed her was not in the line-up.
- A fingerprint lifted from where the robber touched the second victim’s car did not match Hogan.
- The second victim described another distinctive feature of her attacker: a heavily pockmarked complexion that did not fit Hogan.
Those with the Innocence Project said they took the case in 2019 "because it looked like a wrongful conviction based on mistaken eyewitness identification."
Hogan never thought the day would come when he could hug his mother as a free man.
“How many people would say,'Before I die, I want to just hug my mom.' You know, people do that every day. And for me, it was like, that's top of the bucket list," said Hogan. “That's one of the biggest lessons of this experience is really understanding the value of what's important in life. And take advantage of the little things, 'cause those are the big things."
His mother, Deb Deaton, said the best Mother's Day gift she could receive was her son coming home.
“To be able to put my arms around him without anybody saying, 'Enough, sit down.' And to know that he's free and I can hug them anytime I want," Deaton said. “It was just the world. So, my life is complete now.”
“We appreciate the Korey Wise Innocence Project bringing this case to our attention,” McCann said in a news release. “We were not able to conclude that Mr. Hogan did not commit this crime but given the fact that there was a subsequent very similar robbery and that information was not provided to us at that time so it could be disclosed to the defense counsel, we agreed that it was fair and in the interest of justice to resolve the case in this manner.”
McCann said the Conviction Review Unit has received 45 sentence reduction applications, 26 clemency requests, and 42 actual innocence applications.