Juan Silva Sr. was yesterday ordered to leave prison, though he's just one year into his five-year sentence for a fatal 2013 hit-and-run. His 22-year-old son, Juan Silva, is about to take his place. The reason? The 43-year-old Milwaukee man gave a false confession to protect his son, who has since admitted to being behind the wheel on Sept. 28, 2013, and driving into two pedestrians outside a bar. Juan R. Zapata-Guerrero, a father of three, was killed; the 22-year-old fled. The elder Silva now says his son came home in a panic, thinking he had killed a dog. When the father saw a news report on Zapata-Guerrero's death, he decided to take the rap for his son. "It's a complete manipulation of the system," Milwaukee County Assistant DA Grant Huebner tells NBC News. "You have basically a family that decided they were going to decide amongst themselves who should pay the price, instead of a judge or a jury or the system."
The attorney representing Silva says he had no idea he was being lied to, and says that had the driver not fled the scene it likely wouldn't even be considered a crime: It was dark, raining, and the victims entered the street by walking through parked cars. "A defense could have been made that this was unavoidable," he says. How the ruse all unraveled: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that the mother mentioned in a conversation with a co-worker that her husband had confessed falsely. That co-worker went to police, who later interviewed Silva in prison. He confessed, as did his son. The Journal Sentinel yesterday reported that, with his sentence now vacated, the elder Silva could be out within days; he wasn't charged with making a false confession. The younger Silva faces up to six years and will appear in court next month. (Read more hit-and-run stories.)