Saturday, November 2, 2013

One Year Later: Wrongly Convicted Jonathan Montgomery is Still a Registered Sex Offender, Will Justice Ever Be Served? When Will Virginia Allow Him to Start the Life They Took From Him With an Accusation Alone?

As most of you, I have been following the Jonathan Montgomery case for the last year. For the following reasons. 

  1. Mr. Montgomery’s case actually made it to trial.
In Virginia more than 96% of criminal cases are settled with a plea deal. The State counts on less than 4% of cases needing to be proven in court to a judge or jury. Most citizens cave and take the plea deal that is inevitably offered. Out of fear of a lifetime in prison (no parole in VA), out of ignorance, fear of losing their employment, their home and/or their family or maybe due to financial constraints like the inability to pay for a descent defense  (not even a good defense) which starts at $30,000 and up, up, up from there. 

If Mr. Montgomery had taken a plea deal as most citizens do, he would have then forfeited his right to appeal all matters from the case including his guilt or innocence.  

  1. Mr. Montgomery was found guilty on the word alone of Elizabeth Coast; no evidence other than her accusation was ever submitted by the Prosecution (Commonwealth Attorney) and in Virginia no other evidence is required.
I’ve read the court transcripts (91 pages) from the Montgomery case and I can tell you there was no evidence against Mr. Montgomery compelling or otherwise. The State did not prove guilt. But the judge sided with the "victim" saying he could not imagine why she would lie. 

  1. When Elizabeth Coast finally recanted her false accusation against Mr. Montgomery Virginia’s archaic 21 Day Rule prohibited Mr. Montgomery’s immediate release from a Virginia prison. 
In Virginia a complaining witness has 21 days from sentencing to recant after those 3 weeks if a recant occurs the Commonwealth of Virginia will not listen. Especially, if the falsely convicted person is no longer in prison or if it wasn’t a felony but a misdemeanor. No chance in getting your name cleared in these cases. 

The State can’t be bothered with undoing the wrongful conviction or removing the innocent Virginian from the public Sex Offender Registry or all the restrictions that accompany being an RSO. Only newly discovered biological evidence may be admitted after 21 Days from sentencing, yet 80% of criminal cases don’t have any DNA evidence.

Virginia has adjusted our statutes to allow victims of abuse to come forward many years later, but when it comes to a recant its 21 Days or NOTHING! The very same person that the State based their entire case upon is ignored. It took Elizabeth Coast more than 4 years to gain the courage to right the terrible wrong she created. 

There should be no deadline for the truth OR on justice being served in our state. Every recant should be taken seriously and investigated thoroughly as would be done with every new accusation of abuse no matter how old. 

For 5 years I’ve tried to get just one Virginia lawmaker to sponsor a bill to fix the 21 Day Rule, but not one Delegate or Senator is willing to put their name on such a Bill. 

  1. Mr. Montgomery was finally released from prison days later, I believe only because of the media coverage. But his felony conviction and the mandate that he register as a sex offender remained.

  1. Elizabeth Coast was charged with perjury for lying about the sexual abuse.  
Perjury in Virginia is punishable by imprisonment from one to 10 years, confinement in jail for up to 12 months, and/or a fine of up to $2,500.  Virginia Code §18.2-434. and §8.01-4.3. 

-         Elizabeth Coast's False Rape Claim Leads To 2 Months Jail In Virginia, August 20, 2013
-         Woman to serve 2 months for perjury in innocence case, August 20, 2013
-         Woman who lied about sex assault pleads guilty, May 21, 2013

But when the court sentenced her they decided not to sentence her to the maximum prison time because they didn’t want to appear too harsh on liars or perhaps dissuade future liars from coming clean. She was allowed to serve her 2 months on weekends. 

  1. A year later Mr. Montgomery still has a felony conviction on his record and must register as a sex offender. This means he prospects for a bright future are bleak. Renting an apartment of his own almost impossible, Finding a good job perhaps a career, not a chance. Going to college to get a degree, not very likely.  Until he receives a full pardon he is branded with a scarlet letter that bars him from almost every aspect of life.
Mr. Montgomery may have been released from a Virginia prison a year ago, but according to Virginia he’s a Predator, a Pervert and a Pedophile. Luckily for Mr. Montgomery most people know Ms. Coast recanted so his existence is probably better than the hundreds maybe thousands of wrongly convicted Virginians who are listed on the Registry today.

The registry is considered administrative, non-punitive by those not listed. But those who are affected by the label suffer daily and for the Commonwealth to force any innocent person to endure this additional pain plus bear the burden to clear their own name is beyond cruel. 

Mary Devoy

Fighting for Justice: When will Johnathan Montgomery’s name finally be cleared?
October 31, 2013

A year after his office blocked Montgomery’s release from prison, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli now says he’ll personally be involved in arguing for his innocence before the Court of Appeals of Virginia. 

Montgomery was accused of sexually assaulting Elizabeth Coast when she was 10 and he was 14. She didn’t come forward with the allegations until 7 years later and it was her testimony alone that convicted Montgomery and sent him to prison.

Tuesday is Election Day 2013: You Can Vote for Virginia’s Governor, Lt. Governor and Attorney General and Your House of Delegates Representative

On November 5, 2013 Virginians will be voting for Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General, here are the candidates. The Governor and Lieutenant Governor are elected separately (not on a one party ticket) it is possible we could have a Republican and a Democrat elected to work together. 

In this years election there is one current State Senator running for Lieutenant Governor and two Senators running for Attorney General, if any of these candidates win an Administration position on November 5th then there will need to be a special election for their State Senate seats. Those districts could be unrepresented for the first few weeks of the yearly General Assembly session depending on the date the Governor selects for the special election. If you live in one of these three districts you need to know of a special election date being set, who those candidates are and if any bills during the session pass through the Senate chamber when there is no representative for your district available to vote. 

The Lieutenant Governor is not just first in the line of succession to the governor but is the presiding officer of the State Senate during the yearly General Assembly session, pursuant to the Constitution of Virginia. The Lt. Governor can cast a tie-breaking vote in the Senate (40 District seats) key procedural issues but not on the state budget, taxes, the election of judges and amendments to the Virginia Constitution Those bills require the approval of a majority of members elected to the Senate. 

Most Virginians will be voting for their representative in the Virginia House. All 100 seats in the House are up for re-election; more than 40 districts only have the incumbent running unopposed so there is no real race. But there are 12 House seats with no incumbent running so no matter who wins it will be someone with new ideas and opinions.  

To see who is running for Delegate in your district, here are the candidates.  

You should contact the candidates in your district, introduce yourself, tell them what issues concern you and let them know you will be voting on November 5th. Have your family and friends do the same. 

Delegates and Senators listen to their constituents and they know if you’re a registered voter or not and if you are a voter then they listen much more intently. 

Every candidate for the Virginia House of Delegates this November has been contacted by me a few times since June so if they are elected and take office in January right before the 2014 General Assembly session begins they will already know who I am and about this platform.  

Be sure that your voice is heard this Tuesday November 5th 2013. VOTE! 

Mary Devoy