Like many of Taller de José’s clients, Fortino was referred in April 2013 by his parish priest; when an individual turns to their church for assistance, they are often referred to Taller de José if their needs are outside the bounds of what the parish can provide. In Forino’s case, he was facing criminal charges for what he explained what self-defense in a disagreement with a neighbor. Because he was illiterate, spoke only limited English, and could not afford a private attorney, he was very nervous about the legal process.
After hearing the client’s story, a compañera at Taller de José was able to connect him to Cabrini Green Legal Aid, an organization that provides free legal services to low-income residents of Chicago, and the only such organization in the city that provides legal defense in criminal cases. A compañera then accompanied Fortino to the CGLA offices to translate for his initial interview there, and both the compañera and Forinto were grateful to receive the news that a lawyer from CGLA had agreed to take his case.
Over the course of the next 10 months, a compañera accompanied Fortino to multiple meetings with his attorney as well as several court dates. He was always extremely courteous and respectful of his compañera and attorney, so much so that he was hesitant to provide his attorney with necessary information because it involved repeating the profanity used during the disagreement with his neighbor. In gratitude for the services he was receiving, Fortino volunteered to assist Taller de José by painting the new offices before the move in August 2013. Finally, in February 2014, the case was heard in front of a judge who ruled Fortino not guilty of the charges brought against him. Through tears, he thanked his attorney and compañera, sharing that he wasn’t able to pay them, but that he was always willing to help with painting or other handy man jobs needed in the office. In this video he shared, “before all this, my blood was trapped. But now it is flowing freely again.” Taller de José is honored to serve clients like Fortino, who are so touched by their experiences that they desire to “pay it forward” and share God’s inclusive love with others.