Here's the deal.
Jonathan Montgomery did not sexually assault Elizabeth Coast. That wouldn't be newsworthy (I mean, lots of people didn't sexually assault her; in fact, if I read the news story right, nobody did), except that Montgomery has been in prison for 4 1/2 years for the non-crime. Mila Mimica and Andy Fox tell the story for WAVY.
Jonathan Montgomery was sentenced by Hampton judge Randolph West to 7.5 years in prison in 2008 for the 2000 sexual assault of Elizabeth Coast. Last week, West tossed Montgomery's conviction on the grounds that Coast had fabricated the assault story.Happy ending.
It was learned that Coast, who worked with the Hampton Police Division, confessed to a detective 'that she lied about a sexual assault... lied at the trial... and sent an innocent man to jail."
Coast has been charged with perjury.
See, what's supposed to happen now, actually what was supposed to happen a week ago, is that the wholly innocent Jonathan Montgomery, the man who's served well over 4 years in prison for a crime that did not occur, should be released from prison with apologies and best wishes and what can we do to make up for this.
He got the apology from Judge West. He got the order from Judge West to let him out of prison.
What he didn't get was out of prison. Because the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Ken Cuccinelli, says they can't let the innocent guy out. Not that he isn't innocent or anything. Just that the judge didn't have the authority (the legal word is jurisdiction) to find him innocent and free him.
Even though he's innocent. Even though there was no crime.
The problem is that it's been more than 21 days since Montgomery was convicted. Which means he has to stay in prison even though he's innocent, even though there was no crime.
"Virginia law will not allow the immediate release of Mr. Montgomery, and the attorney general is obligated to follow the law," said Brian Gottstein, the attorney general's director of communication. "Our research shows that the order from the trial court to vacate the three and a half year-old conviction appears void on its face, as the trial court does not have jurisdiction to enter the order according to Virginia's 21-day rule. Authority to get around the rule -- to pardon or commute the sentence -- does not rest with the attorney general."Rules, after all, are rules. I mean, think what might happen if Virginia started letting innocent people out of prison right and left just because they're innocent? Then Texas might have to let Megan Winfrey go even though she acted suspiciously. Then the feds would have to do it. Soon innocent folk all across the country would insist that they should be let out of prison.
Before you know it, we'd conclude that only the guilty should be punished. And that maybe close enough for government work isn't really close enough for government work.
Oh my stars and whiskers!
H/t Radley Balko