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Virginia Attorney General Joins Defense Lawyers in Effort to Clear Man's Name

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Posted: November 19, 2013   4:40 PM

A year after Jonathan Montgomery received a conditional pardon from the Virginia governor in a 2008 alleged molestation case, the state’s attorney general joins Montgomery’s lawyers on Tuesday to ask the appeals court to clear his name.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli will be making one of his first public appearances since losing the governor’s race earlier this month when he appears before the Virginia Court of Appeals to ask that Montgomery be declared innocent.
The alleged victim, Elizabeth Paige Coast, claimed to have been molested in 2000 when she was 10 years old and Montgomery, who was her neighbor, was 14. Montgomery was convicted of aggravated sexual battery in 2008 and served four years before she recanted and admitted that she made the story up.
According to Coast, she fabricated the story of molestation after her parents caught her looking at pornographic websites as a teenager, so she created a tale of prior sexual abuse to explain her behavior. She was convicted of perjury in May and sentenced to two months in jail and ordered to pay $90,000 in restitution.
Papers filed by Cuccinelli’s office report that there has never been a case in which a recanting victim has been convicted of perjury. If Montgomery is cleared, this will be the first time the Court of Appeals has granted a writ of actual innocence on the basis of a recantation.
According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch: “Brian Gottstein, a Cuccinelli spokesman said the attorney general will ask the court to award a writ. ‘The attorney general wants to bring any influence the office can to the table to help plead for Montgomery’s innocence and clear his name,’ he said. ‘The hope is that the weight of the attorney general’s office arguing for his innocence is a substantial influence to bring, because the office usually argues to keep people in jail; it doesn’t argue to get people out,’ Gottstein added.”
Cuccinelli has a long history of supporting actual innocence claims, advocating for the exonerations of Thomas Haynesworth and Calvin Cunningham, both in 2011, and Bennett Barbour in 2012.

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