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Carlos Lopez-Siguenza

Other Child Sex Abuse Exonerations with Perjury or False Accusation
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In March 2003, 22-year-old Carlos Lopez-Siguenza was indicted by a grand jury in Atlantic County, New Jersey, on charges of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl in two motels sometime between January 2001 and February 2002.
 
The girl was identified by authorities as Melissa Aguilar Cruz. Lopez-Siguenza was charged with two counts of aggravated sexual assault, two counts of child abuse, and two counts of endangering a child’s welfare.
 
Lopez-Siguenza’s defense attorney, Mark E. Roddy, requested a copy of the girl’s birth certificate after Lopez-Siguenza said the sex was consensual and that the girl was known in the community to be at least three years older—of legal age to engage in consensual sex.
 
The prosecutor provided a birth certificate that had been obtained from the girl’s family. The certificate, which was not notarized or certified, was handwritten in Spanish and purported to be from Honduras. The document was for an individual named “Melissa Gabriela Aguilar Guerrero” and had a Spanish language inscription for the date of birth which translated in English to March 3, 1987.
 
On March 12, 2004, based upon the advice of Roddy that he had no chance of being acquitted at trial, Lopez-Siguenza pled guilty to one count of second-degree sexual assault of a minor. He was sentenced to three years in prison.
 
At the time of his conviction, Lopez-Siguenza, a citizen of El Salvador, was a legal permanent resident of the United States. After he served his prison term, he was detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, placed in removal proceedings, and deported to El Salvador.
 
In 2011, Lopez-Siguenza was arrested in Utah for entering the U.S. illegally. His mother hired another attorney, Jorge Coombs, to investigate the immigration case. Coombs examined the 2004 conviction for sexual assault and noticed the discrepancy between the name Cruz gave to police and the name on the birth certificate.
Coombs sent a letter to the General Consul of Honduras requesting verification of the birth certificate.
 
In August 2011, Coombs was informed that the birth certificate could not be verified and that the name on it—Melissa Gabriela Aguilar Guerrero—did not exist in the Honduran National Register. The National Identification Number on the certificate was not in the proper format, Coombs was told.
 
The General Consul’s staff attorney located a birth certificate for a “Melissa Gabriela Andino Munoz” born on March 3, 1984, who was reported to be living in New Jersey.
 
Coombs filed a motion for post-conviction relief in December 2011 based on the new information. On August 2, 2012, a judge granted the defense motion and vacated Lopez-Siguenza’s conviction. The judge held that Cruz and her family had perpetrated a fraud on the court. On August 17, 2012, the prosecution dismissed the charge.
 
In 2013, Lopez-Siguenza filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Atlantic City Police Department and the prosecutors in his case. He also sued his original defense attorney, Roddy, for legal malpractice, breach of fiduciary duty, and breach of contract. His claims against the Atlantic City Police and prosecutors were dismissed in 2014. The claims against Roddy, however, were still pending in June 2016.

– Maurice Possley
 

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Posting Date: 6/16/2016
State:New Jersey
County:Atlantic
Most Serious Crime:Child Sex Abuse
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2002
Convicted:2004
Exonerated:2012
Sentence:3 years
Race:Hispanic
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:21
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No