RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares has moved to support a writ of actual innocence for Michael Haas, a man convicted of sexually assaulting his two sons when they were 9 and 11, in 1994.

Haas was released from prison in 2017.

“My mother fled a country where there was no real criminal justice system or consent of the governed,” said Miyares. “After reviewing Mr. Haas’ case, my office has concluded that he was wrongly convicted and is deserving of a writ of actual innocence. While our system is imperfect, the ability to correct wrongdoings is incredibly important and I’m proud of the work that my office does to try to right those wrongs.”

Former Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring expressed support for Haas’ case in 2021.

The Haas case has made its way through the legal system for decades, beginning in 2000 when Haas filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus which the circuit court ultimately dismissed.

In 2003, he then filed a similar petition with the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia which was also dismissed, this time on the grounds that he had failed to prove that it was more likely than not that a reasonable fact-finder would have found him not guilty.

In 2004, he appealed this decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit; the court dismissed this appeal as well.

On May 11, 2010, Haas filed his first petition for a writ of actual innocence based on non-biological evidence. By an order entered on March 1, 2011, the Court of Appeals granted the Commonwealth’s motion to dismiss the petition.

On July 20, 2020, Haas filed a petition for a writ of actual innocence again. This time the petition was granted an evidentiary hearing in which new evidence was revealed.

According to a 2012 Supreme Court of Virginia document on the 1994 circuit court trial, the trial judge found the sons’ testimonies to be convincing. Gregory Neal, then an investigator with the Sheriff’s Department, interviewed the boys individually, without their mother’s presence.

They told him that their father slept in their beds with them and sodomized them as often as once a week over a long period.

Haas’ two sons have since recanted the testimonies they gave at the trial in 1994, and an affidavit by their elder sister in 2010 stated that the boys’ testimony had been suggested and coached by their mother and a counselor named Susan Boyles.

According to a “Findings of Fact” document from Haas’ 2020 petition, Boyles coerced admission from the boys by telling them “very often” that their father had abused them and that he would “get help for his drinking and temper and would return home after trial.” After repeated sessions with Boyles “once or twice a week,” the boys relented and said that Haas had abused them.

The Commonwealth presented four physicians at the trial who examined the boys in 1994, over a year after the alleged sexual abuse had occurred. Haas’ counsel never made any objections to the qualifications of the expert testimony.

The younger boy’s examination revealed a jagged appearance resulting from tearing tissue later healed but leaving marked scarring. The older boy showed enlargement and a marked decrease in sphincter tone. The physicians all testified that these findings were consistent with chronic penetration from the outside.

The photographs of the conditions revealed by these examinations allegedly “spoke volumes” in the opinion of the trial court. A footnote to the court’s 2012 decision describes these photographs as no longer appearing in the record, “for reasons unexplained.”

However, in 2020 Haas’ legal team was able to locate the photographs after one of the original physicians who testified, Dr. Foster, found the photos in an annex of VCU Hospital.

In the 2020 document, Foster — upon reviewing the evidence over 20 years later — testified that the original conclusions made from the photographs were not in accordance with modern medical standards. In the years since the 1994 trial, much of the scientific understanding of pediatric anatomy — particularly in the case of pediatric sexual abuse — has been refuted.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to include information from recent court filings.