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Prosecutors: DNA evidence clears inmate of 1982 Key West rape

May 22, 2006 | AP A Cuban national convicted of a 1982 Key West rape will be released after DNA evidence proved he did not commit the crime, prosecutors said Monday.

Orlando Bosquete, who escaped from prison twice, once for 10 years, has been serving a 55-year sentence after he was convicted of breaking into the victim's home in 1982 and raping her. More than 175 inmates have been released nationally in recent years after being cleared by DNA evidence.

Bosquete, 51, was arrested shortly after the assault when the victim, from 20 feet away, identified him as her attacker and another man as his accomplice as she sat in the back seat of a police car. They had been picked up at a convenience store.

Matthew Helmerich, spokesman for Monroe County State Attorney Mark Kohl, said prosecutors will go to court in Marathon on Tuesday and ask that the conviction and sentence be dismissed. Bosquete would then be released. He said DNA tests not available two decades ago show Bosquete was not the rapist.

"He'll be a free man," Helmerich said.

Bosquete is being represented by the Innocence Project, a nonprofit group is based in New York. Spokesman Eric Ferrero declined specific comment on the case.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez said the federal government has a detainer on Bosquete, which means there is a question as to whether he is in the country legally. She said the government would have further comment on the case Tuesday.

Under current U.S. policy adopted in the 1990s, almost all Cuban immigrants who reach dry land are allowed to remain.

The other man, Pablo Cazola, pleaded guilty to burglary and state prison records show he was paroled in 1985.

Helmerich said victims and witnesses are usually asked to pick suspects from a lineup and he doesn't know why it wasn't done in this case. Kirk Zuelch, who was the state attorney when Bosquete was prosecuted, said Monday he doesn't remember the case well enough to comment.

Becky Herrin, spokeswoman for the Monroe County sheriff's office said nobody else will be sought in the case because the statute of limitations has expired. Officials haven't released the name of the victim, nor would they say whether she's been notified that Bosquete wasn't her attacker.

Bosquete first escaped in 1985 from Glades Correctional Institution in Palm Beach County. He was re-arrested in 1995, only to escape again three months later from a Miami-Dade County jail. Officials recaptured him a year later. Charges surrounding Bosquete's first escape will probably be dropped, and Bosquete has served the time he got for his second getaway, Helmerich said.

DNA testing has been used to free at least five prisoners in Florida and another 172 across the nation, Ferrero said.

Bosquete's case marks the second wrongful conviction in Florida this year. In January, 45-year-old Alan Crotzer went free after serving more than 24 years in prison for armed robbery and rapes that he didn't commit.

In 2000, 11 months after he died of cancer, DNA evidence cleared death row inmate Frank Lee Smith of the 1985 murder of an 8-year-old girl.

In 2004, 44-year-old Wilton Dedge of Port St. John was released from a life sentence after a test proved he didn't commit a 1981 rape. Dedge received $2 million from the Florida Legislature as compensation for 22 years he spent in prison. A bill to authorize compensation for innocent prisoners failed in the Legislature this year.

Legislators did pass a bill eliminating deadlines for when prisoners can request new DNA testing, but it has not yet been signed by Gov. Jeb Bush.

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