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James Crawford in the Orange County Register

DA wants holdup charge dropped
Courts Prosecutors say new evidence casts doubt on the conviction;
defendant has been free pending appeal.


Byline: ALDRIN BROWN   

After serving more than two years of a 13-year prison sentence for armed robbery, a 20-year-old Garden Grove man learned Tuesday that he will remain free after prosecutors decided to have the conviction overturned.


District attorney's officials Friday will ask a judge to throw out the case against George Arnulfo Lopez, who was convicted of using a shotgun in the May 1999 holdup of CitiFinancial, a loan business in Anaheim.


``I'm relieved that this is going to be done and over with, and I can get on with my life,'' Lopez said Tuesday. ``I just want to go on with my life and act like this was all a dream.''


It was the second time in two years that county prosecutors have reversed a high-profile case against a convicted robber.
Lopez was freed in September from Ironwood State Prison in Blythe pending the outcome of his appeal. Deputy District Attorney Brian Gurwitz initially challenged the appeal, then relented.


``Newly-discovered evidence has cast enough doubt on whether Lopez was the gunman that the interests of justice are best-served by vacating the conviction,'' the prosecutor's motion states. Gurwitz would not disclose what specific evidence led them to clear Lopez, but said the decision was based on additional investigation.


The husband and father of three, who had no other criminal record, has maintained his innocence from the start. Several employees of the business, who witnessed the robbery, also have said they did not believe Lopez was the gunman.


Last year, another convicted robber, serving time for a spree of other Orange County robberies that occurred about the same time, purportedly told defense investigators that he -- not Lopez -- was responsible for the CitiFinancial holdup, defense attorney James Crawford has said.


In a similar case, Arthur Carmona of Santa Ana, then 18, was freed in August 2000 after serving two years for a robbery conviction that also was overturned.

 

Contact Brown at (714) 796-6741 or abrown@ocregister.com
George Lopez

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