Immigrant Freed after 16 Years for Rapes He Did Not Commit

Luis Vargas (Francine Orr / LA Times via Associated Press)
Francine Orr / LA Times via Associated Press

On Monday, a judge freed a legal immigrant who had served 16 years in prison after being falsely accused of rape.

Luis Vargas, 46, was convicted of raping three women, but always protested his innocence. He alerted the California Innocence Project at California Western School of Law, which took up his case in 2012, about crimes identical to the rape of which he was convicted, according to ABC-7.

CBS Los Angeles reported that the day he was sentenced in 1999, Vargas protested, “I’m concerned (the) individual (who) really did these crimes might really be raping someone out there, might really be killing someone out there.”

Vargas was cleared after his attorneys requested new DNA testing.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Vargas had a prior conviction, from 1992. His attorneys acknowledged he had arrived home drunk one evening and raped his girlfriend, leading to three years in prison.

The actual rapist in Vargas’ 1996 conviction was nicknamed the “Teardrop Rapist” because he had a tattoo of a teardrop under his eye. According to Vargas’ attorneys, he was mistakenly identified by the rape victims because he had a similar tattoo.

Vargas’ daughter Cristal Nora Vargas, 26, told ABC-7: “This is all I’ve ever wanted and I thank God for this one because God knows the truth behind all of this. It’s a relief because I believed in my father innocence the day he told me he was innocent. Growing up, I would cry myself to sleep. My father meant the world to me and he still does.”

Over 30 sexual assaults have been attributed to the Teardrop Rapist since 1996; he is still at large.

After the judge’s decision, Vargas could not return home with his family because his conviction reportedly triggered the revocation of his green card and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement placed a hold on him. His attorneys are rectifying the situation.