A man who spent 16 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of raping writer Alice Sebold will get a $5.5 million settlement payment from the State of New York.
The settlement comes after Anthony Broadwater’s conviction in the 1981 rape case was overturned in 2021, the Associated Press reports.
“I appreciate what Attorney General [Letitia James] has done, and I hope and pray that others in my situation can achieve the same measure of justice,” Broadwater said in a statement, according to the New York Times. “We all suffer from destroyed lives.”
According to one of Broadwater’s attorneys, Melissa Swartz, the settlement agreement ended the lawsuit Broadwater had filed because of his wrongful conviction.
“We are obviously excited to get that lawsuit behind us,” Swartz told PEOPLE. “It is going to provide Anthony with some financial stability for right now.
Sebold was raped at a park near her college campus in May 1981 when she was an 18-year-old freshman student at Syracuse University. She wrote about the assault and the prosecution that followed in her 1999 memoir, “Lucky.”
Sebold won acclaim for her 2002 novel “The Lovely Bones,” which recounted the aftermath of a teenage girl’s rape and murder. The book was then turned into a movie.
Sebold, a white woman, wrote in “Lucky” that she saw a Black man in the street months after being raped and was sure he was her attacker.
Police arrested Broadwater. However, Sebold failed to identify him in a police lineup, instead picking a different man as her attacker.
Despite this, Broadwater was tried and found guilty in 1982 after Sebold named him as her rapist while testifying on the witness stand. Microscopic hair analysis was used to connect Broadwater to the crime. However, the U.S. Department of Justice has since labeled that kind of analysis unreliable.
Broadwater was released from prison in 1999, but he was required to register as a sex offender until his conviction was overturned in November 2021.
The current district attorney for Onondaga County, which contains Syracuse, joined the move to dismiss the conviction, emphasizing that witness identifications, particularly across racial lines, are frequently unreliable.
“Anthony Broadwater was convicted for a crime he never committed and was incarcerated despite his innocence. While we cannot undo the wrongs from more than four decades ago, this settlement agreement is a critical step to deliver some semblance of justice to Mr. Broadwater,” James said in an emailed statement.
Broadwater has also filed a federal civil rights case against Onondaga County, the city of Syracuse, as well as an assistant district attorney and a police officer who assisted in his prosecution. That case is still pending.
In a 2021 statement released to The Associated Press and then posted on Medium, Sebold apologized to Broadwater.
She wrote that “as a traumatized 18-year-old rape victim, I chose to put my faith in the American legal system. My goal in 1982 was justice — not to perpetuate injustice. And certainly not to forever and irreparably alter a young man’s life by the very crime that had altered mine.”