DALLAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – A North Texas man is getting a second chance at life after spending 16 years in prison.

Juan Carlos Garcia was 18 years old and a junior at Irving High School when he met Cassandra Morlock.

She told Garcia she was 17. She was actually 12 years old.

When their sexual relationship was discovered, Garcia was arrested and later tried, convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison for sexual assault of a child, something Morlock and even her father, Terry Morlock said was unjustified.

Terry Morlock credits Garcia for saving his daughter’s life. He said Garcia was a good influence on her when he believes she was doing questionable things. Terry Morlock said he believed Garcia was no more than 13 or 14 years old at the time because he looked so young.

But Terry Morlock never got to testify in Garcia’s trial.

In 2006, Garcia’s family hired attorney Josh Schafer, who believed, also, that an injustice had taken place.

On June 5th, Garcia’s request for an appeal was granted. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals decided that Garcia’s trial could have ended differently had Terry Morlock had the opportunity to testify.

Tuesday, because of a plea by Cassandra and Terry Morlock, the Dallas County district attorney’s office asked a Dallas County judge to dismiss the charges altogether. Prosecutor Russell Wilson said Garcia’s 30 year sentence was “excessive.”

Garcia’s sentence was dismissed, and the conviction will not remain on his record.

Either way, Garcia is grateful to be getting a second chance at life.

“I’m grateful for that to God, you know, because a lot of people don’t get that second chance you know,” Garcia said

Garcia said he had at one point given up hope on the justice system, but decided to turn his life around.

Garcia stayed busy in prison working out and reading hundreds of books, many of them self-help books.

He says his faith kept him going.

“I believe that everything happens for a reason, you know, and it’s what you make out of it, how you want to deal with the situation,” he said. “I choose that I left everything to God. He has everything planned out for everybody and, you know, if he wanted me to go through this it’s for a reason.”

His paperwork is still being processed, but once that is complete, Garcia will be a free man.

He says he is looking forward to learning new technology and getting an education.

Garcia is not getting out of a prison a hardened man. Instead he’s more hopeful than ever.

“I’m glad that I’m getting another chance and I’m going to make sure that this time I’m going to make it count,” he said.

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