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Everyone in Virginia’s criminal justice system knew that Johnathan Christopher Montgomery was innocent of the crimes for which he’d been convicted.
His accuser had recanted her testimony and admitted she lied to police about being molested by Montgomery more than a dozen years earlier. And yet the state continued to deny him his freedom until an advocacy organization for the wrongly convicted petitioned for his release.
Finally, on November 20, 2012, more than four years after he was sent to prison for aggravated sexual battery and lesser charges – and two days before Thanksgiving –Montgomery was conditionally pardoned by Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and walked out of the Greensville Correctional Center.
“The truth sets you free,” Montgomery told reporters outside the facility.
His accuser, Elizabeth Paige Coast, had told police that Montgomery sexually abused her in 2000 when she was 10 years old and he was 14 and lived across the street from Coast’s grandmother in Hampton. Coast invented the story, she reportedly told investigators, because she was embarrassed and panicked when her parents caught her looking at pornographic websites.