Teen Kidnapped by Father as a Boy Pleads with Judge Not to Send Him to Jail: 'I Forgive Him'

Teen Kidnapped by Father as a Boy Pleads With Judge
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

04/14/2016 AT 01:40 AM EDT

19-year-old Julian Hernandez was kidnapped as a boy, but has since forgiven the man who took him – his father.

According to local news site Cleveland.com, Julian took the stand on Wednesday, testifying on his father's behalf, despite being taken from his mother's home by his dad, Bobby Hernandez, in 2002 when he was just 5 years old.

"He loved me and protected me more than anybody else could during my life," Julian said in court. "I don't know what else to say other than do not send my father to jail. Even if other people can't, I forgive him for what he's done. I love him and I want him to be a part of my life."

Leaving a note at the Alabama home, Hernandez took Julian to Cleveland where he made a life for the pair, establishing new identities for both of them, including a driver's license and Social Security card for himself, CBS reports. A neighbor added that Julian was called J.J.



After spending 13 years with his father, who Julian says pushed him toe excel in school and is the reason he's going to college today, questions about the boy's identity last fall during his college application process, CBS reports.

When a discrepancy in his Social Security number came up, a school counselor reportedly found out that Julian was listed as missing by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

According to CBS, he was then reunited with his mother.

Hernandez was reportedly arrested in November and pleaded guilty last month to charges included kidnapping, interference of custody and tempering with record of forgery.

Although Julian acknowledged that growing up without a mother "was painful at times," he also told the court that putting his father in jail would be doing the same thing to him all over again.

"Taking my father away from me now just increases the pain," he said. "Taking him from me now is just doing the same thing all over again."

According to Cleveland.com, Hernandez's fiancée also took the stand in his defense, along with neighbors who vouched for the man.

Before sentencing Hernandez, the judge reportedly noted that she found Julian's testimony the most persuading in considering the sentence – four years in prison, just one year above the minimum sentence.

Hernandez will receive credit for the time he's spent incarcerated since his arrest, Alabama.com reports.
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