RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Gov. Bob McDonnell has issued a conditional pardon ordering the release of a man who was convicted of a sexual assault his accuser now says never occurred.
The governor's office says the action means that Johnathan Montgomery will be released Tuesday night from the Greensville Correctional Center.
In issuing the conditional pardon, McDonnell called Montgomery's imprisonment a "travesty of justice."
The 26-year-old Montgomery was convicted in 2008 of sexually assaulting Elizabeth Paige Coast. Then 17, the accuser claimed Montgomery assaulted her outside her grandmother's house in Hampton in 2000 when he was 14 and she was 10. Montgomery was sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison.
Coast now faces prosecution for perjury. A copy of the pardon may be viewed here.
Speaking about the granting of the pardon, Governor McDonnell said, "It is a travesty of justice when an innocent person is confined in a jail or prison, and it should never occur in our society. Our office became aware of Mr. Montgomery's situation last week. Since that time members of my staff, along with the Virginia Indigent Defense Commission, the Mid-Atlantic Actual Innocence Project, the Hampton Police Department, the Hampton Commonwealth Attorney's Office, the Office of the Attorney General, the Virginia Department of Corrections and the Virginia State Police have worked diligently to gather all necessary information in this case and review the matter thoroughly. I asked Mr. Montgomery's attorneys to file a petition for a pardon with our office, as that action would allow me to exercise my gubernatorial authority and take immediate action. We received that petition at 10pm last night, and began reviewing it immediately.
"Our staff, together with their counterparts in various state and local agencies, did a great deal of work on this petition in under 20 hours. And I thank them for that service. After reviewing the petition for a conditional pardon sought by his attorneys, the evidence that came with it, and additional evidence gathered by our staff, I have granted Mr. Montgomery a conditional pardon, as requested, effective immediately. Mr. Montgomery will leave Greensville Correctional Center this evening. This situation has been a tragedy. An innocent man was in jail for four years. While tonight Mr. Montgomery is free from prison, he will never get those years of his life back. Tonight I called Johnathan to personally offer, on behalf of the citizens of the Commonwealth, our heartfelt apologies for all that he has been put through due to this miscarriage of justice. I am thankful that the witness in this case finally stepped forward to recent her testimony. Justice, while tragically delayed, has been served. I thank everyone who worked so hard on this case to achieve tonight's outcome. More than anything else, I wish Mr. Montgomery a successful and fulfilled future with his family and his friends."
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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