The Canadian high-school basketball player arrested and accused of being nearly 30 years old told authorities this was all an honest mistake, according to Nicholas Keung of the Toronto Star.
Jonathan Nicola, who is from South Sudan and is 6-foot-9, was detained by Canadian immigration services in mid-April. He had been living with his Catholic Central basketball coach as a 17-year-old in 11th grade.
According to the report, Nicola said during a detention interview that he did not know how old he was because his mother could not remember.
“I always keep asking what is the specific age that I was born, and she has told me that she could not remember,” Nicola said in the hearing. In South Sudan, he added, “not every year we study … we always keep moving to different schools, and over there, they do not ask your age. They do not ask you nothing.”
Nicola also reportedly pleaded with officials to send him back to South Sudan, saying his only desire was to get an education to help support his family.
“I am not a liar person,” Nicola said. “I am religious. I pray to God … If something bad happen to me here, I do not know what would happen to my mother back home because she is really sick. She has diabetes. I did not came (sic) here to harm any people or do something bad. All my goal is to study and get the education, so I can go back home, I can help my mother, I can help all my rest of the family.”
Nicola was caught when he recently applied for a visitor’s visa to enter the US using a 1998 birth date. Fingerprints from that application matched a previous application that used a date of birth from 1986.