RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Virginia House of delegates is poised to approve compensation to two men wrongfully convicted of child sexual abuse.
Michael Haas and David Kingrea were both convicted of child sexual abuse based on the testimony of young children — Haas by his young sons and Kingrea by his then stepson — who all later recanted their testimony.
Now, both men have been granted writs of actual innocence by Virginia courts, rulings that exonerate them and establish that they never should have been convicted and incarcerated.
But although both men have been released from prison, removed from the sex offender registry and had their records wiped clean, Delegates Rip Sullivan (D-Arlington) and R. Lee Ware (R-Powhatan) are now asking the state to compensate them for the suffering they endured as a result of their wrongful convictions.
Sullivan told House committee members that the two bills would move forward “under our well-established statutes in Virginia for Virginians who have been found to be wrongfully incarcerated.”
Kingrea served a year in prison and was placed on the sex offender registry after he was convicted in 2014 of indecent liberties. Years later, after he had been released from prison, Kingrea’s accuser, himself now incarcerated, recanted his testimony in a letter to Kingrea — maintaining that Kingrea had been physically abusive, but admitting that the accusation of sexual abuse had been fabricated.
Kingrea — who had maintained his innocence throughout his trial and incarceration — said he now has a young son with a serious health condition and being on the sex offender registry for almost a decade had made it difficult for him to get work and participate in his son’s school activities.
“He’s got many health impairments, two rare diseases,” Kingrea said. “I just need the compensation for one thing and one thing only, and that’s to provide a home for my son so he can stay with us.”
Haas underwent his own two-decade odyssey in the justice system after he was convicted in 1994 and sentenced to decades in prison. He was only released in 2017, and had his writ of innocence granted in 2022.
“I spent over 23 years in prison for a crime that never happened,” Haas said. “From the very first accusations and all throughout my case I proclaimed my innocence.”
Del. Terry Austin (R-Covington) listened along with the other members of the house sub-committee, then addressed Haas directly.
“Mr. Haas we apologize, and we know this had to be traumatic and difficult for your life, and I just want to personally tell you, the Commonwealth’s sorry,” he said.