NEW YORK — A man who spent 16 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of raping writer Alice Sebold while she was a student at Syracuse University has settled a $5.5 million lawsuit against the state of New York, their lawyers said Monday.
The agreement comes after Anthony Broadwater’s conviction for raping Sebold in 1981 was vacated in 2021. It was signed last week by Broadwater’s lawyers and New York Attorney General Letitia James, said David Hammond, one of Broadwater Lawyers.
Broadwater, 62, said in a statement broadcast by Hammond: “I appreciate what Attorney General James has done, and I hope and pray that others in my situation can achieve the same measure of justice. We all suffer destroyed lives.”
“Obviously, no amount of money can erase the injustices suffered by Mr. Broadwater, but the settlement now officially recognizes them,” Sebold said in a statement issued through a spokesman.
Sebold was an 18-year-old freshman at Syracuse when she was raped in a park near campus in May 1981. She described the attack and subsequent prosecution in a memoir, “Lucky,” published in 1999.
Sebold won acclaim for his 2002 novel “The Lovely Bones,” which recounted the aftermath of the rape and murder of a teenage girl and was made into a film starring Saoirse Ronan, Susan Sarandon and Stanley Tucci.
Sebold, who is white, wrote in “Lucky” that she saw a black man on the street months after she was raped and was sure it was her attacker.
“He was smiling as he approached. She recognized me. For him it was a walk in the park; he had met an acquaintance on the street,” Sebold wrote. “Hey, girl,” he said. ‘Don’t I know you from somewhere?’”
Police arrested Broadwater, who was given the pseudonym Gregory Madison in “Lucky.” But Sebold couldn’t identify him in a police lineup and chose another man as his attacker.
Nonetheless, Broadwater was tried and convicted in 1982 after Sebold identified him as her rapist on the witness stand and an expert said that microscopic analysis of the hair had linked Broadwater to the crime. That kind of analysis has since been deemed junk science by the US Department of Justice.
Broadwater was released from prison in 1999. But he had yet to register as a sex offender until his conviction was overturned in November 2021.
William J. Fitzpatrick, the current district attorney for Onondaga County, the central New York county that includes Syracuse, joined the motion to vacate the conviction, noting that witness identifications, particularly across lines racial, they are often unreliable.
Broadwater’s agreement with the state must be approved by a judge before it becomes final.
“Anthony Broadwater was convicted of a crime he never committed and was jailed despite his innocence. While we cannot undo the mistakes of more than four decades ago, this settlement agreement is an essential step in bringing a semblance of justice to Mr. Broadwater,” James said in an emailed statement.
Broadwater also filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Onondaga County, the City of Syracuse, and an assistant district attorney and a police officer who participated in his prosecution. That case is pending.
Sebold apologized to Broadwater in a 2021 statement published in The Associated Press and later published in Medium.
She wrote that “as a traumatized 18-year-old rape victim, I chose to put my faith in the American legal system. My goal in 1982 was justice, not perpetuating injustice. And certainly not forever and irreparably altering a young man’s life for the same crime that had altered mine.”