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Jailed for a crime he did not commit. He is now being awarded for helping others.

Posted at 6:18 PM, Dec 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-24 18:18:20-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- It's been 10 years since Thomas Haynesworth was exonerated for a crime he didn't commit.

After the Virginia man served nearly 27 years in prison after being convicted of rape, he's made it his mission to help others wrongfully convicted of crimes.

Haynesworth does not spend his days dwelling on that dark time in his life. After DNA evidence cleared him of the rape, Haynesworth was laser focused on his future. In 2011 he got a job working in the Virginia Attorney General's Office.

"They tried to right the wrong. I am what I am today because they stood up and saw that they made an injustice a part of my life," he said. "They made it right for me, so now I've been here 10 years."

Holding up the 10-year service award he received at a recent luncheon, Haynesworth said he was proud of how far he had come.

He had to jump back into a world he hardly knew, from learning technology that was foreign to him to navigating a community that looked completely different than what he remembered. Now the Richmond man holds a job that brings him joy. He said the best part was is helping others who may be walking in his shoes.

"You have guys in the system and they write to the Office of the Attorney General to see if he would look at their case," he said. "I handle all that. I open all the mail and I direct it to the right person."

A job for which Haynesworth said he was grateful.

"I thank God," he said. "He placed the right people in my life and I'm just trying to do the same thing. Be a bright spot in somebody else's life."

It was not lost on Haynesworth that the very Commonwealth that put him in prison for 27 years for crimes he didn't commit was now recognizing him for his service to the state. But he said keeping a positive attitude and not being bitter has made all the difference.

"I'm never going to make the years up," he said. "God has blessed me with great people that he put in my life and I'm grateful to have that. Just going to take one day at time. Whatever God has for me I'll hold onto it and accept it."