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James Crawford in the Orange County Register

O.C. man wrongly convicted of heist planning a lawsuit
Court - A judge officially dismisses case against George Arnulfo Lopez,
who spent two years in prison.


Byline:KELLY TOKARSKI   

A Garden Grove man who spent more than two years in prison for a crime he didn't commit said he plans to file a lawsuit alleging violations of his civil rights after a judge threw out the case against him Friday.

Superior Court Judge Daniel J. Didier cleared George Arnulfo Lopez, 20, of all charges. He was mistakenly convicted of armed robbery in the May 1999 holdup of CitiFinancial of Anaheim.

``I lost two years of my life for something I didn't do,'' he said, gripping the hand of his pregnant 17-year-old wife, Lea. ``I can never get that back.''
Throughout his confinement, Lopez said he was innocent. He was released from Ironwood State Prison in Blythe in September after another man confessed and other evidence, not revealed by authorities, also showed Lopez wasn't the gunman.

``The evidence has proved and since the beginning established that he was not the gunman at CitiFinancial on May 17, 1999, and the relief that he's receiving today is long overdue,'' said Lopez's attorney, James Crawford.


His father, Arnulfo Lopez, 39, said he always believed in his son and that he was discriminated against because of his shaved head.
``I've been waiting for this day for two years,'' Arnulfo Lopez said. ``It's been so hard, but I've always known he was innocent.''

Without a criminal record, Lopez said, he looks forward to finding a job, spending time with his family and witnessing the birth of his child.
Family and close friends will gather today to celebrate Lopez's freedom with an afternoon barbecue. An evening of dancing will follow.
``I'm just happy to be with my family and that this whole thing is over,'' Lopez said.

Contact Tokarski at (714) 240-6433 or ktokarski@ocregister.com
George Lopez


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