Michael McAlister shown in this Apr. 11, 2002 photograph taken at the Lunenburg Correctional Center, in Lunenburg, Va.
Photo by Don Long/Richmond Times-Dispatch/AP

Virginia Gov. McAuliffe exonerates sex offender after 29 years


For decades, Michael Kenneth McAlister denied committing the sexual assault that landed him in prison for 29 years. On Wednesday, his name was finally cleared of all wrongdoing.

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Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, granted McAlister an absolute pardon Wednesday, citing “overwhelming evidence, including a recent confession by another individual, pointing to Mr. McAlister’s actual innocence of the crime for which he was convicted.”

McAlister, now 58, was convicted for assaulting a 22-year-old woman in the laundry room of a Richmond apartment complex in 1986, when he was 29. The victim identified McAlister as the perpetrator based on a photo array. According to The Washington PostMcAlister “bore an uncanny resemblance to a serial rapist active in the same area and time.”

McAuliffe’s decision came after Richmond Commonwealth Attorney Michael Herring joined McAlister’s request.

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“Mr. McAlister has served 29 years in prison, and he had faced the potential to be civilly committed for a crime he did not commit,” McAuliffe said in a written statement, adding, “A number of individuals in the law enforcement community, including the Commonwealth’s Attorney for the city of Richmond, have concluded that this crime was committed by another individual, and that Mr. McAlister should be freed to return to his family and his community. I have reached the same conclusion, and I have acted in accordance with the law.” 

Terry McAuliffe and Virginia

Virginia Gov. McAuliffe exonerates sex offender after 29 years