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No compensation for legal system error

The Associated Press

PHOENIX – A judge has refused to award money to a man who spent more than three years in prison and was deported without knowing he’d been awarded a new trial.

Juan Garcia Sanabria’s conviction was overturned in 1999, but nobody – including the judge, his public defenders and prison officials – told him he was free to go.

Sanabria, 44, spent more than three years in prison and then – even though he had been living and working in Arizona as a legal immigrant – he was deported as an alien felon.

When he returned to Arizona – illegally this time – he was arrested. He was facing another three years in prison when immigration officials finally realized he was not a convict.

Sanabria sued his two public defenders, but a Maricopa County Superior Court jury sided with the attorneys on Friday and declined to award him anything.

“I don’t know what to believe and what not to believe anymore,” Sanabria said. “It’s not only me. It’s my whole family. I’m still in the same situation. Nothing happened again. They didn’t care about my rights.”

Sanabria doesn’t have another immigration hearing until April.

His wife, Maricela Lopez, said their power, phone and water have been turned off. Sanabria and Lopez have 12 children between them.

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