Help Guatemalan Father From the Violent Gang that Permanently Injured His brother

Geovanni* is a 31-year-old man from Guatemala. When Geovanni was only 13 years old, he and his siblings witnessed a violent fight between two gangs at his family’s bar. Members of one of the gangs terrorized Geovanni and his family following the incident — showing up at his family’s home, attacking and permanently injuring his brother, falsely testifying against Geovanni’s mother, and likely much more.  Geovanni suspects the gang members are also responsible for burning his family’s bar down and murdering his sister. Geovanni and his brother fled to the U.S. in 2008, where Geovanni has since been living with his spouse and children. Geovanni is now looking for an attorney to represent him in seeking withholding of removal and protection under the Convention Against Torture. Geovanni’s individual hearing is scheduled for July, but CAIR Coalition will assist a pro bono attorney to obtain a continuance as a prerequisite to representation.

All CAIR Coalition matters placed with a pro bono team are robustly mentored by a CAIR Coalition attorney.  Our mentoring program includes an opening meeting to discuss the scope and process of the matter, provision of samples, guidance on the law, review of draft filings, assistance with client contact, and guidance on preparation for interviews and hearings.  


In 2004, when Geovanni* was about 13 years old, two gangs began fighting at his family’s bar – which is also where his whole family lived. During the fight, a member of one of the gangs yelled about a massacre in which many people were injured/dismembered/killed with guns and machetes. Geovanni and his siblings hid under the bar and heard everything going on. The police arrived after all the gang members left.


A few days later one of the members from one of the gangs came to the bar and asked Geovanni’s mother to identify the members from the other gang who were in the bar. The door to the bar was then shot multiple times. Geovanni’s older brother ran to the police station to report the gunshots, but the police didn’t come. Due to the police’s refusal to get involved, Geovanni’s mother closed the bar down.


A gang member then came to Geovanni’s mother gang, this time with a list of 6 members of the gang who died in the massacre. The gang member asked her to testify that two of the men involved in the incident were innocent. Geovanni’s mother refused.


Several days later, a couple of men broke down the door at night while Geovanni was asleep and indicated that they were looking for him. Geovanni’s mother said he was just a boy and the men said “no, there were witnesses.” The men mistook Geovanni’s brother as Geovanni and attacked him. Geovanni’s brother was hospitalized and lost the use of one hand permanently. The family went into hiding at friends and relatives’ houses for many months.


Geovanni’s mother was arrested and charged with homicide because 2 of the gang members gave false testimony naming her and others in her family, saying she was covering up gang activity and refusing to identify killers in the massacre. Geovanni’s mother was released by the criminal judge and they all left town. Around the same time, the bar was burned down.


Geovanni’s mother had a complete breakdown and was no longer able to take care of herself. She died in 2006. Geovanni and his brother did not attend her funeral because they felt it was too dangerous to leave the house. Geovanni’s uncle told them the gang members who falsely testified against Geovanni’s mother had been released. Geovanni and his brother then decided to flee the country. Geovanni and his brother arrived in the U.S. in 2008.


Also, in 2008, in Guatemala, Geovanni’s sister decided to go back to school. She was then found shot and strangled in the street with a warning message written on a paper in her hand. After her death, Geovanni’s extended family cut off his other siblings, claiming that it was too dangerous to help them or talk on the phone. Around 2011, Geovanni’s brother received news that their sisters were in hiding. Geovanni has since had no news of his surviving sisters in Guatemala and he believes he would still be in danger if he were to return to Guatemala.


Geovanni has been living with his spouse and U.S.-citizen children. He is the sole economic support and his 2-year-old son has been showing signs of trauma since Geovanni was detained. Geovanni also remains close to his brother in the U.S., who has been helpful in providing documents and support.  

Geovanni has been convicted of one fraud/forgery charge and one DUI. A pro bono attorney would need to explore Geovanni’s criminal record in order to gain a full understanding of his criminal history.


Important Note: Geovanni’s individual hearing is scheduled for July, but CAIR Coalition will assist a pro bono attorney to obtain a continuance as a prerequisite to representation.


  • Timeline: Geovanni has an Individual Hearing on July 21, 2020. CAIR Coalition will assist a pro bono attorney to obtain a continuance as a prerequisite to representation. In response to COVID-19, the courts currently permit attorneys to attend all hearings telephonically. 
  • Location: Caroline County, Virginia (detained). Attorneys can schedule private calls with detained clients rather than conducting in-person legal visits.
  • Language: Spanish


For more information about this case, please contact Pro Bono Coordinating Attorney Jennifer Grishkin at or 202-866-9287.

*Pseudonyms are used to protect privacy