Taylorsville attorney plays key role in happy ending of an international incident
Jul 20, 2018 01:58PM
● By Carl Fauver
Carlos Trujillo’s family has become very close with Josh Holt and his relatives after the Taylorsville attorney assisted in getting Josh and his wife released from a Venezuelan prison. (Carl Fauver/City Journals)
By Carl Fauver | [email protected]
As the end of a two-year nightmare finally arrived for Josh and Thamy Holt — held inside a Venezuelan prison on what everyone believed were made-up charges — we saw the young couple in photographs with Congresswoman Mia Love, Sen. Orrin Hatch, President Donald Trump and many others.
But in the midst of that international media coverage, following the Holts’ May 26 release, there was not a lot of talk about the only United States-based attorney who assisted with the case, Carlos Trujillo of Taylorsville.
“(Trujillo) became a key person in talking to people, and his involvement in the case definitely helped lead to Josh and Thamy’s release,” Laurie Holt said in an exclusive interview with the Taylorsville Journal. Josh’s mother also added, “(Carlos) is one of the kindest, most caring attorneys I have ever met. He and his family will be our family friends for life.”
The Holts’ ordeal began on June 30, 2016, when Josh was followed by Venezuelan police to his home there, where authorities claimed to have found assault rifles and other military items. He was accused of conspiring against that country’s government and was jailed along with his new wife, Thamy, accused of being an accomplice.
However, it would be 10 months before Carlos Trujillo became involved in the case.
“Initially, Josh and Thamy were assisted by a Venezuelan organization that provides help to political prisoners,” Trujillo said. “But eventually, those attorneys turned the case over to three other Venezuelan lawyers. That’s also when a friend of mine (from Venezuela, Trujillo’s native country) contacted me to see if I could help.
“Not long after that, the three new Venezuelan attorneys abandoned the case and fled the country entirely. They were feeling so much heat from their government that they feared for their lives and remain in hiding now.”
Trujillo said he had been following the case through the media. He agreed to provide pro bono (unpaid) assistance.
“Things really began to move forward after Carlos joined the case,” Laurie Holt added. “I met with him, and two days later we were flying to Washington, D.C. He helped us set up so many important meetings with (congressional and state department) people. It was a very productive trip.”
“I knew one of the most important things we needed to do was improve communication between United States’ and Venezuelan officials,” Trujillo said. “I met with people from (Sen. Orrin) Hatch’s and (Congresswoman Mia) Love’s offices and told them we needed more help. I think Laurie Holt and I made a good team. She touched their hearts with the family connection while I was the bulldog. I had to have the bite of a dog to keep things moving forward.”
Trujillo had his wife accompany him to assist on that D.C. trip. And several months later, he called upon another family member to help him on a second trip he made for the Holts, this time to Miami, Florida.
“Thamy’s two daughters, from different fathers, had each been staying with relatives since she and Josh had been imprisoned,” Trujillo said. “The older girl (Marian) was staying with her biological father and was doing OK. But the younger girl (Nathalia) was with her grandfather and not in a good situation.
“In early 2018, we finally arranged to get her on a flight from Venezuela to Florida. I knew she was a scared little girl, so I asked my 10-year-old daughter Carly to come with me to Miami, to accompany Nathalia on the flight back to Salt Lake. (Carly) had been practicing her Spanish (the only language Nathalia spoke), so having my daughter along helped her feel much more comfortable.”
This was Nathalia’s first-ever visit to the United States. Since that first meeting, Trujillo added, “They’ve become the best of friends and continue to get together for play dates.”
As late May rolled around, negotiations between the United States and Venezuela began to gain momentum, and Trujillo became confident the Holts’ release was imminent. But he thought he had time to squeeze in a long-planned (and paid for) vacation for he and his wife. They didn’t quite make it.
“My wife and I had been planning our first trip to the Bahamas for about 12 years, and that’s where we were when we received word Josh and Thamy were being released,” Trujillo said. “It was near the end of our vacation, so we didn’t change our travel plans to get back. But I spent the last day and a half of the trip making nonstop phone calls.
“More than anything, we had to control the media. News of the planned release was getting out, and I had to negotiate with the media to keep a lid on it, because we were afraid something could still go wrong.”
Trujillo said most media members were cooperative. As he and his wife flew home from the Bahamas, the Holts had already made their flight from Venezuela to Washington, D.C., for a highly publicized meeting and photo opportunity with Trump.
“I finally met Josh and Thamy in person at the Salt Lake airport as they flew in from their D.C. stop,” Trujillo said. “There were plenty of hugs and tears.”
“This has been a crazy and horrifying experience,” Laurie Holt said. “But we never gave up hope. And with the help of Carlos and many others, everything finally worked out.”
Trujillo estimates the value of the service he provided was around $30,000 if he had been billing everything. Instead, he has accepted a few gifts and donations from the family, along with their friendship.
“Obviously, this case was never about the money, and I am so glad I was able to help them,” Trujillo said. “We spent a lot of hours in the office, and I never could have done it without my (employee) team here. We all spent a lot of late, stressful nights. But it was all worth it in the end. And now we have new friends for life.”