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Cuccinelli asks court to exonerate wrongly convicted Johnathan Montgomery
RICHMOND (September 19, 2013) - In a brief to the Virginia Court of Appeals, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is asking the court to find a man convicted of sex crimes in April 2009 innocent of the charges after his alleged victim recanted her testimony and was convicted of perjury last month.
While Cuccinelli's office would normally be prosecuting an appeals case, in this instance, the attorney general is siding with the defense to help prove defendant Johnathan Montgomery's innocence. "Justice demands that we work tirelessly to vindicate anyone wrongly convicted," said Cuccinelli.
Montgomery's accuser, Elizabeth Coast, was sentenced last month in the Circuit Court for the City of Hampton for perjury for her testimony at Montgomery's 2008 criminal trial. The court of appeals had stayed proceedings in Montgomery's actual innocence case pending the outcome of Coast's perjury conviction. It has now lifted the stay and ordered supplemental briefs in the case.
"The conclusion of the perjury proceedings against Coast establishes both that her recantation is true and her trial testimony was false," the attorney general's new filing states. "Coast's perjury conviction is clear and convincing evidence that Montgomery is actually innocent," it said. The law does not allow courts to simply free convicted felons on the basis of alleged perjured testimony unless a court first evaluates whether the testimony was actually false.
No hearing is scheduled at this time, and the court could make its ruling without one.
In 2004, then-Senator Cuccinelli supported legislation which passed and created the legal procedure that vindicated Thomas Haynesworth, a man who served 27 years for rapes he did not commit. Cuccinelli also advocated for Haynesworth at his actual innocence hearing in 2011. The attorney general also supported the exonerations of Calvin Cunningham and Bennett Barbour, who won biological writs of innocence in the Virginia Supreme Court.
Assistant Attorney General Alice T. Armstrong is assisting with the case.