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Man acquitted in rape case described in Alice Sebald’s memoir

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Man acquitted in rape case described in Alice Sebald’s memoir

The rape took place in a Syracuse, NY, park in 1981 and was described in crude detail in a memoir published nearly 20 years after it occurred, as the man convicted of the crime sought to rebuild his life after being released from prison. was struggling.

The book “Lucky” launched the career of author Alice Sebold, who later rose to international fame with “The Lovely Bones”, a novel that also focused on sexual assault and sold millions of copies.

The man who was convicted of assault, Anthony J. Broadwater had always said he was innocent. On Monday, he was acquitted, as a state judge, his defense attorneys and the Onondaga County district attorney agreed that the case against him was grossly flawed.

“It’s going to be a long day,” Mr Broadwater, 61, said in an interview on Tuesday.

He married and looked for work after spending 16 years in prison, but found himself cut off from opportunities because of the sentence.

“On my two hands, I can count the people who allowed me to grace their homes and dinners, and I got no more than 10,” he said. “It’s very painful for me.”

The attack happened when Ms Sebold was a freshman at Syracuse University. She writes in her memoir, which was published in 1999, describing how she immediately told campus security about the attack and went to the police.

After collecting evidence from the rape kit, she told police about the characteristics of her assailant, but the resulting overall sketch did not resemble her, she wrote.

Mr Broadwater was arrested five months later, after Ms Seybold crossed him in the street and contacted police, saying he may have seen his assailant.

But he identified a different person in the police lineup as his attacker. In her memoir, she writes that Mr. Broadwater and the man next to her looked alike and that moments after making her choice, she realized she had chosen the wrong man. She later identified Mr Broadwater in court.

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Ms Sebold used a fictitious name for Mr Broadwater in her memoir, identifying him as Gregory Madison.

In his motion to vacate the conviction, defense lawyers J. David Hammond and Melissa K. Swartz wrote that the case relied entirely on Mr Broadwater’s identity in Ms Seybold’s courtroom and a now-discredited method of subtle hair analysis.

He also argued that prosecutors’ misconduct during the police lineup was a factor – that the prosecutor had falsely told Ms. Sebold that Mr. Broadwater and the man next to them were friends who intentionally appeared together in the lineup to deceive him. were – and that had inappropriately influenced Ms Sebold’s later testimony.

In the motion to vacate the conviction, Onondaga County District Attorney William J. Joined Fitzpatrick, who noted that witness identities of strangers, especially those who cross racial lines, are often unreliable. Ms. Sebold is white, and Mr. Broadwater is black.

“I’m not going to spoil these proceedings by saying, ‘I’m sorry,'” Mr. Fitzpatrick said in court on Monday. “It doesn’t cut it. It should never have happened.”

State Supreme Court Justice Gordon J. Cuffy agreed, and overturned Mr. Broadwater’s conviction of first-degree rape and five related charges. He will no longer be classified as a sex offender.

Ms Sebald did not comment on the decision, a spokeswoman for Scribner’s, which published “Lucky”, said. The spokesperson said the publisher has no plans to update the text.

A planned film adaptation of “Lucky” played a role in raising doubts about the case against Mr. Broadwater.

Timothy Mucciente was serving as executive producer on the adaptation of “Lucky,” but began to question the story the film was based on earlier this year, when he noticed discrepancies between the memoir and the screenplay.

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“I began to have some doubts, not about the story that Alice told about her attack, which was tragic, but about the second part of her book about the trial, which didn’t hang together,” said Mr. Mukiante. Said in an interview.

Mr Mukiante said he left production in June because of his doubts about the case and how it was being portrayed.

They hired a private investigator, Dan Myers, who spent 20 years working for the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office and retired as a detective in 2020 to look into the evidence against Mr Broadwater, and Mr Broadwater’s innocence. convinced about.

Mr. Myers suggested that they bring the evidence they had gathered to a lawyer and recommended Mr. Hammond, who reviewed the investigation and agreed there was a strong case. Around the same time, Mr. Broadwater decided to hire Mr. Hammond based on the recommendation of another local attorney.

Mr. Broadwater, who was released in 1998, was scrambling and thriving to hire one lawyer after another to prove his innocence.

He said that he and his wife, Elizabeth, wanted to have children, but felt they could not taint their punishment.

Mr Broadwater recalled that he had returned home to Syracuse while serving in the Marine Corps in California, when he was arrested. At that time he was 20 years old.

He had gone home because his father was ill, he said. His father’s health deteriorated during the trial, and he died shortly after Mr Broadwater was sent to prison.

“I just hope and pray that maybe Ms Sebold will come forward and say, ‘Hey, I made a serious mistake,’ and I’m sorry,” said Mr Broadwater.

“I sympathize with him,” he said. “But she was wrong.”

Sheilagh McNeil Contributed to research.

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