Angel Gonzalez exonerated in 1994 rape

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After 20 years in prison, DNA tests led to the exoneration of Angel Gonzalez in the 1994 rape and kidnapping of a woman in Waukegan. (WLS)

After 20 years in prison, DNA tests exonerated Angel Gonzalez in the 1994 rape and kidnapping of a woman in Waukegan.

Gonzalez has not been released from prison.

"I hope he can get out soon because we miss him a lot," Saul Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez, 41, was speechless in court on Monday when a judge vacated his conviction. Lake County State's Attorney Mike Nerheim asked the court to throw out the verdict after more recent DNA tests, which arrived last week, revealed two unknown suspects but excluded Gonzalez.

"This is a day of vindication. Finally. He has been maintaining his innocence since day one. And after two decades, we have scientific proof and acknowledgement of the state," Vanessa Potkin, Innocence Project attorney, said.

Gonzalez's conviction is the fifth major felony case to collapse in the last five years after DNA indicated Lake County authorities had put an innocent man behind bars.

"If words were enough I'd say I'm sorry. And I am sorry," Nerheim said.

Gonzalez was serving a 55-year sentence for the July 10, 1994 rape and kidnapping. He lived in Waukegan at the time, and was identified by the victim. Police said he confessed after 13 hours in custody.

"Looking back on things, at the time. We did have a good case against Mr. Gonzalez. But we didn't have the technology we have today," Assistant Lake County State's Attorney Steve Scheller said.

Gonzalez maintained he was innocent. The Innocence Project took on his case in 2012.

He remains incarcerated at Dixon Correctional Center in northwestern Illinois on a criminal damage to state property conviction. He allegedly destroyed a sink while in solitary confinement in prison.

"The injustice here is just heartbreaking," Lauren Kaeseberg, Innocence Project attorney, said.

Attorneys hope to have the criminal property damage vacated. They hope to get him released within a week.

Related Topics:
DNAwrongful convictionLake County
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