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Innocent - but back in jail

Published May 24, 2006

MARATHON - A Cuban national wrongly accused of a 1982 rape was arrested by immigration officers Tuesday, hours after a judge dismissed his sexual assault conviction based on DNA evidence.

Orlando Bosquete was in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and would be charged with violating immigration law, ICE spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez said. A judge will decide whether he can be deported, Gonzalez said.

The arrest came after Circuit Judge Richard G. Payne said DNA evidence proves Bosquete was not the man who sexually assaulted a Key West woman in 1982.

Before Tuesday's arrest, Bosquete, 52, expressed frustration at his extended incarceration, but said he was glad he was proved innocent of the rape.

"I'm so happy. I'm not angry," Bosquete said after the hearing. "It is very important to me to forgive because I have to start a new life."

Bosquete came to the United States in the 1980 Mariel boat lift, when more than 125,000 Cubans fled the communist island. He was granted temporary legal status in 1981, his lawyers said.

Bosquete, who escaped from prison twice, is being represented by the Innocence Project. His lawyers said the immigration confusion comes from charges he pleaded guilty to under aliases he used while an escaped convict.

"They feel they have to have him in custody while they sort these issues out," Barry Scheck, one of Bosquete's attorneys, said. "This is among one of the most difficult bureaucracies anyone has to deal with. It's frustrating."

Bosquete was convicted of breaking into a Key West woman's home and sexually assaulting her. He was arrested when the victim, from 20 feet away, identified him as her attacker as she sat in the back seat of a police car.

Bosquete first escaped in 1985 from Glades Correctional Institution in Palm Beach County. He was caught 10 years later, only to escape again three months later from a Miami-Dade County jail. Officials recaptured him a year later.

Prosecutors in Palm Beach County dismissed his 1985 escape charge on Monday, and Bosquete has served the time he got for his second escape, officials said.

State Attorney Mark Kohl said his office acted immediately upon confirmation that DNA recovered at the 1982 crime scene was not Bosquete's.

"I'm saddened that he had this horrible situation happen to him and it's our job to make sure this doesn't happen to anybody else," Kohl said.

DNA testing has been used to free at least five prisoners in Florida, the Innocence Project said.

[Last modified May 24, 2006, 05:08:40]

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