Man exonerated after spending nearly 30 years in prison

Posted at 10:30 AM, Dec 07, 2011
and last updated 2012-03-22 08:47:38-04

RICHMOND, VA (WTVR) - The day is finally here and Thomas Haynesworth can finally breathe a sigh of relief. The wait for a full exoneration is over.

A panel of judges from the Virginia Court of Appeals has decided the 46-year-old Richmond man is not a rapist and he’s not a criminal. It acknowledged Haynesworth’s record should be wiped clean.

“Today justice is finally served for Thomas. God has been merciful and I’m so thankful” said an emotional Ken Cuccinelliduring a Tuesday afternoon news conference.

He told a packed auditorium that his job as Attorney General is not just to convict people, but rather it’s to seek justice.

Cuccinelli formally apologized to Haynesworth. He said the mistake that led him to be imprisoned for 27 years was just that, a mistake.

[BONUS: Haynesworth talks about false imprisonment]

Haynesworth is now fully exonerated from his 1984 sexual assault convictions in a series of rapes in Richmond and Henrico.

He spent nearly three decades in prison for those crimes. He was convicted in three attacks.  DNA proved his innocence in some of the cases. There were two others though, where there was no biological evidence.

Tuesday’s decision removes those dark clouds from Thomas’ head.

“I feel so blessed. 27 years I spent but  I’m just ready for me and my family to put this behind us and move on. Yes, I do have patience. I said all along I was innocent” said Thomas.

So, what’s next for Haynesworth? Cuccinelli says the parole board will do an administrative discharge today. He says now Haynesworth won’t have to live with the recent limitations placed on his life. He won’t have to report to a parole officer any more. He’s also been removed from the sex offender registry and by all accounts will have a blemish free record.

Haynesworth said he’s really looking forward to being able to vote in an election. He  joked that his immediate plans include taking out of town trips. Tops on his list? A trip to cheer on his favorite football team, the Dallas Cowboys.

Certainly Tuesday, all the cheering was for Thomas Haynesworth and his newfound freedom.