Deported Texas teen maintains alias in jail calls

ALICIA A. CALDWELL LINDA STEWART BALL Associated Press Published:

DALLAS (AP) -- A Dallas teenager who was deported to South America under a false name never expressed concern during jailhouse phone calls that she was being misidentified as an illegal immigrant from Colombia.

The more than two dozen recorded telephone calls reviewed by The Associated Press show 15-year-old Jakadrien Turner expected to be deported to Colombia yet did not complain of having no ties to the country.

Instead, during several conversations she had with two men she identified herself as Tika Lanay Cortez and discussed renewing her green card and having her passport and Colombian identification card sent to authorities.

Yet, Turner claimed in a recent TV interview that she repeatedly tried to convince authorities she had lied when she initially identified herself to Houston police as Cortez, a 21-year-old Colombian national, after being arrested for shoplifting.

"At a certain point, I just gave up because I said it multiple times: 'I'm Jakadrien Turner, I'm 15 years old, and why am I here?'" Turner, who was returned to Texas last month, told Dallas television station WFAA, in an interview that aired Wednesday night.

The Associated Press reviewed recordings of 25 telephone calls Turner made while in custody in Houston in April and May. A law enforcement official who has listened to most of the calls and has been briefed on the case confirmed the caller is Turner. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official is not authorized to publicly discuss details of the case.

During several of the phone calls, which ranged from a couple minutes to about 45 minutes, Turner frequently discusses having her passport and other documents sent so she could be released.

The teen, who said she ran away from home in November 2010 because her parents were strict, told the TV station she fell in with a trafficker who claimed to love her but threatened to kill her and hurt her family if she tried to leave.

Her Dallas attorney, Ray Jackson, told the Associated Press on Friday that the individuals Turner was calling on the phone were people she met after she escaped the trafficker -- in the week or two before her arrest.

One of them may have had family in Colombia, he said, explaining the South American connection.

"Essentially, what she's trying to do is get them to help her get out," Jackson said. "The purpose of the calls, some of them, was to try to get bond money.

"She wasn't going to call them and say, 'Hey, guess what? I'm a 15-year-old girl." She continued using Tika Cortez, the name she made up, because that was how they knew her, he said, adding that she was resigned to the fact that she might be deported and felt hopeless.

"You've got to keep in mind that we're still dealing with a 15-year-old girl," Jackson said. "She was a month from being 14. So you're talking about someone who is very immature mentally. So she was confused by that whole situation."

Jackson said Turner endured some "horrific things" as a runaway, physically and mentally abused by the trafficker.

But after she was in custody -- and supposedly free of the trafficker -- she continued using her alias, said an attorney who represented her in the theft case.

"As far as I can tell, she was always listed as Tika Cortez," said William Rene McLellan, her Houston defense attorney.

McLellan said that given the pretrial proceedings and that she was told of the immigration hold, "there was ample opportunity for her to change her story. It's mind-boggling she would go with it."

McLellan noted Turner pleaded guilty, was sentenced to eight days with three days' credit and turned over to immigration.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say Turner never identified herself as an American citizen.

Though there are times in the recorded jailhouse phone calls when Turner laments being incarcerated, she is generally upbeat and often jokes with the two men.

In a lengthy call April 9 with one of the men, Turner tells him she expects to be deported to Colombia but if she does go, "I'm coming back."

She never tells the man she is a U.S. citizen or complains that she has no ties to Colombia. The only thing she complains about is the security situation in that country.

"So this is what scares me though ... if I get deported, basically I don't know how I am going to go to Colombia because it's a war zone," she says.

Turner was sent to South America, where she remained until Jan. 6, after Dallas police, working with her grandmother, tracked her down using her Facebook page.

WFAA reported she was afraid that if she told the truth in Colombia that she would be imprisoned there.

"I made a lot of horrible mistakes, did a lot of things I'm not proud of," she told the station.

Turner says no one in Houston would believe her when she did tell the truth about who she was.

"It's like the story of the boy that cried wolf," Turner said. "I've lied multiple times before. I've never been honest. I've made a lot of stories up. I made the name up 'Tika Cortez.'"

Jackson said he is planning to file a wrongful deportation lawsuit for a violation of Turner's constitutional rights, possibly against the Houston Police Department, ICE, Homeland Security and Colombia.

U.S. immigration officials insist they followed procedure and found nothing to indicate that the girl wasn't a Colombian woman living illegally in the country.

Turner was issued travel documents at the request of U.S. officials using information they provided, the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

Turner implies that both she and U.S. authorities are to blame.

"I think a lot of people say things to try to cover themselves up," she said. "I made the choices I made, and officials, they made the choices they made."

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Alicia Caldwell reported from Washington, D.C. Associated Press writer Juan Carlos Llorca in El Paso, Texas, contributed to this report.