Wrongfully Convicted: An Innocent Man Speaks Out
February 4, 2014
PANAMA CITY - A new report out this week from NBC estimates 2,000 people have been sent to prison over the past twenty years, for crimes they didn't commit.
That's exactly what happened to a local man, who served four years before finally being freed, and able to come home to
Johnathon Montgomery finds simple joy in taking a walk his mom, Mishia. His quiet life was taken away in an instant back in 2007.
"I was working a double at Flapjacks" says
, as he remembers the day everything
changed. "I came home to my mom's house, we were living on Montgomery Missouri Avenue at
that point, and I got a knock on the door. Lynn Haven police arrested me, said
they had a warrant out for my arrest."
The police told him he was wanted for a crime in
by surprise. Montgomery
"I didn't know what was going on." says
" Montgomery ?
I hadn't lived in Virginia
for years!" Virginia
What happened next sent
world spiraling into a legal web of lies. Montgomery
His accuser, 17 year old
, told police she
was raped when she was 10 years old, by her 14 year old neighbor, Johnathon
"The only evidence they had against me was her word against mine," says
. "Throughout the whole thing
I'm screaming at the top of my lungs, I didn't do it, I didn't do it! And
they're telling the judge, you did do it, we're going to prove you did." Montgomery
was asked if police ever asked for DNA, he replies, "Never. There was no
DNA to ask for. It was word against word." Montgomery
Words can be powerful in a court of law.
Countless appeals couldn't get
sentence overturned. Montgomery
spent four and
a half years behind bars, there was a dramatic turn of events. His accuser, Montgomery , stepped forward, saying she made
the whole story up. Elizabeth Coast
An attorney called
"I thought he was dead," she says, wiping away tears. "I thought they were calling to tell me he died. He (the lawyer) said, you need to sit down, and I thought, I can't sit down if you're going to tell me Johnathon's dead." She continues through more tears, " He said, I want you to listen to me. She (Coast) recanted her story. She lied."
It took another year of legal wrangling, involving the governor of
, before he was finally released. It
took another year after that to clear his name, allowing him to travel freely
back to Virginia
to visit his family. Panama City
The legal nightmare has taken a toll on
"A lot of people don't understand how hard it is to hold yourself
together," he says, as he starts to cry. When asked how he managed through
that difficult time, he says simply, through tears, "I've got my mom.
She's been by me since the beginning. Her and my dad." Montgomery
With his family's help,
is now trying to accept his past, and focus on the future. He is thankful he
can finally be free. Montgomery
"I'm OK with it now. I really am," says
"Because she (Coast) will have to live with it the rest of her life, and I
can move on with mine." Montgomery
Within the past few weeks,
record was finally wiped clean, and his name removed from all sexual registry databases. Montgomery
Last Sunday, he moved home to
and is now looking for a job. Panama City
As for his accuser,
Elizabeth Coast, she was convicted of committing perjury
She was sentenced to two months in jail. Montgomery