Lynchburg, VA - Stranded overseas, the fight for one Lynchburg man to be freed from what was a dream trip that turned into a nasty nightmare.
Sherman Hughes, 35, a Lynchburg native and professor of international relations was spending time in the Dominican Republic trying to set up an exchange program. A few weeks ago his trip took a turn for the worst.
Among the palm trees of paradise, a fire that sparked it all.
Hughes, a young educator, is now blamed for a blaze he says he didn't start. He is being held against his will, with potentially 30 years in jail awaiting him.
"They actually ended up charging me with the fire and saying that I was the actual culprit of the fire," said Hughes.
The damage is obvious inside of Sherman Hughes' condo in the Dominican Republic. He's charged with starting the fire. He faces potentially 30 years behind bars overseas for a crime he says he didn't commit.
"Their lawyer fabricated the story. He fabricated the story that made it seem that I was the actual arson in this situation and that I deserve to be in jail for 30 years," Hughes said.
Hughes was abroad working to create an exchange program with American schools. When he returned from the beach one day, his apartment was near destroyed and his valuables were missing.
The condo rental company blamed Hughes, and he would spend two days in jail.
Hughes says it's all a scheme to have him pay up.
"The jail was just a psychological tactic on me because I'm an American, they think I'm very wealthy," Hughes said.
Hughes' options are to pay $10,000 or fight his charge and potentially become a convicted criminal.
"I knew that Sherman was probably in a situation where he could be in danger" said his father, Abe Hughes.
Hughes' parents, Karen and Abe Hughes, sit 1400 miles away and helpless in their Lynchburg home.
"I was floored, being in another country, my son going to jail for something I know he didn't do" said Karen Hughes.
Sherman says The State Department and Embassy have dragged their feet in helping him. He's attempting to raise the money he needs, negotiate with the legal system, and be out before the end of the month.
"I don't know if they're going to accept the money I've already raised as enough, but we're going to try and see," he said.
So far, Sherman has managed to raise $3,200. His lawyer negotiates with his rental company and the judge on Friday.
His tourist Visa expires on January 14, and Sherman has a flight back to the states and heading home then.
If you'd like to follow his status, Sherman's created a blog: http://trappedontheotherside.wordpress.com/