Thirty-five-year-old Steve Nary on Wednesday was released from Avenal State Prison in California after serving more than 17 years in the state system.

Nary has been in a California prison every single day of his life since March 1996 after he was convicted of killing a “gay” Hispanic newspaper publisher the then-teen said was raping him.

As an 18-year-old sailor on leave in San Francisco, Nary was lured from a co-ed dance club to the apartment of a “gay” predator, 53-year-old Juan Pifarre, under false pretenses, according to reports.

Nary’s memory on what happened has always been imperfect. He wrote from prison about Pifarre’s attempt to rape him that, “I felt stuck. I could not speak. I could not move, and I could not do anything. He just kept trying and trying over and over. In fact it brings me to tears as I write this because I have avoided this image for so long.”

Nary had no idea he was describing the precise reaction of a person who had been slipped a date rape drug, then all the rage among sexual predators. Nary’s public defender did not even raise the possibility at the trial.

“Please, stop,” the lanky, 18-year-old sailor begged as he struggled through a paralyzing stupor.

But Pifarre would not.

In desperation, Nary grabbed a glass mug by Pifarre’s bedside and smacked the chunky, coked-up Pifarre in the head with it. Pifarre fought back.

Nary had never before been in a fight. But this time he was fighting for his life. When he finally subdued Pifarre, he grabbed his clothes and fled back through the deserted streets to the naval base.

Back at the ship, Nary told the chaplain. It being a Clinton re-election year, the politically sensitive Navy washed its hands of the young sailor in unseemly and likely illegal haste and turned him over to San Francisco authorities.

“I felt my life was over, nonexistent,” Nary wrote of that period. “I was a 18-year-old kid who was scared, alone, and hopeless. I had no contact with my parents or anyone else. The military at the time just abandoned me.”

As to Pifarre, not only was he “gay” in America’s “gayest” city, but he was also among the most influential movers and shakers in the Hispanic community.

As publisher of Horizantes, a Spanish language paper, he had real presence in the Latino community and serious pull at City Hall.

That Pifarre had secured his residency through a reportedly fraudulent marriage only burnished his star in a soon-to-be sanctuary city for illegal immigrants.

That he had several priors for sexual assault and exposure, a reported history of violent sexual encounters, and a taste for cocaine seemed to many altogether normative.

When Nary last came up for parole three years ago, San Francisco Deputy District Attorney, Nancy Tung, attended the parole hearing at the prison to assure he did not get out.

In his favor, Nary had some two-dozen letters of support, offers of jobs and places to live. His psychiatric report noted “low risk for violence in the free community” and was among the best anyone had seen.

Nary had converted to Catholicism years ago, helped facilitate spiritual programs and tutor other prisoners. He had all but completed his AA degree from Coastline College, and had “laudatory” marks in program after program.

None of this interested Tung. She had driven the 200 miles from San Francisco to Avenal State prison explicitly to retry the defenseless Nary.

In a state where interest group dynamics trump individual justice, Nary never had a chance.

“The panel feels that you haven’t fully explored the totality and magnitude of this commitment offense,” said the parole board commissioner at hearing’s end.

“You’re unsuitable for parole because you remain a present and unreasonable risk of danger if released and require an additional five years of incarceration.”

This time, with the help of friends and supporters, Nary was able to hire the state’s best parole attorney. Under pressure to reduce prison population, the state of California yielded.

In a phone call Wednesday to WND columnist Jack Cashill, who has written about the case many times over the years, Nary thanked God for allowing him to survive the experience and his supporters for enabling his release.

Among Cashill’s commentaries on Nary’s case:

George Zimmerman, meet Steven Nary

Unequal justice in Arnold’s California

Thanksgiving wishes from Avenal state prison

Unjustly imprisoned sailor speaks out

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