“(The ruling) means that not only am I out of prison, but I’m away from all that … and I can get on with my life.” – Johnathan Montgomery
On December 20, 2013, the Court of Appeals of Virginia granted Johnathan Montgomery’s Petition for a Writ of Actual Innocence in a unanimous decision.
In 2007, 17-year-old Elizabeth Coast of Hampton, Virginia, alleged that Montgomery had molested her seven years earlier. Montgomery was then sentenced to 45 years in prison, with all but seven and a half suspended, for a sexual assault that never occurred.
In 2012, Coast admitted that she had lied about the assault and that the lie had snowballed. Although Montgomery’s defense lawyer and the local prosecutor jointly tried to secure his release based on this evidence, Virginia law did not allow it. After the media became aware of the case, the office of -then Gov. Robert McDonnell asked MAIP to get involved. MAIP secured co-counsel at Hogan Lovells US LLP. Montgomery was granted a conditional pardon and released from prison on November 20, 2012 – albeit as a sex offender.
Coast ultimately pled guilty to perjury, and Montgomery won a Writ of Actual Innocence in December of 2013, finally clearing his name and allowing him to leave the sex offender registry. His case prompted changes to the Writ of Actual Innocence that allow prisoners to be released on bond in cases where all parties agree that an innocent person has been convicted.
More about the case: