He served 20 years for a crime he didn’t commit— and then 27 more hours for a broken sink

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Fusion

While serving 20 years in prison for a wrongful conviction, Angel Gonzalez painted: a lighthouse, a stream, a mountain, a blue truck, a snow-covered cabin in the woods.

“Every time I painted something I felt like I was escaping away from the world, from prison,” Gonzalez told Fusion, hours after exiting Dixon Correctional Center in Illinois. “Feeling freedom. To share with the world, a little bit, I guess, how you feel when you’re inside there. You’re so far away from reality that you sometimes you feel like you’re on a whole different planet.”

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Gonzalez, a Mexican national from Waukegan, spoke on the phone Tuesday night after his release. “We got out and I eat chicken sandwich,” he said, laughing. Before his first home-cooked meal in decades, Gonzalez and Vanessa Potkin, his lawyer from The Innocence Project, made a clandestine pitstop at the restaurant Potbelly for a snack. “Busted,” said Potkin.

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