Criminal Procedure

Inmate Ordered Released After Recantation Remains in Prison Because of Jurisdictional Dispute

The purported molestation victim recanted. A judge ordered the convicted prisoner freed. But the story doesn’t have a happy ending, at least not yet, for the wrongly convicted man who spent more than four years in prison.

Prison officials are refusing to release Virginia inmate Jonathan Montgomery because of advice by the office of Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli, report the Associated Press and the Daily Press (sub. req.).

Montgomery was convicted on the testimony of a 17-year-old accuser who said he molested her when she was 10 and he was 14. The woman now says she made up the story to explain her behavior when her parents caught her looking at pornographic websites. She has now been charged with perjury.

Attorney General spokesman Brian Gottstein told the Daily Press that the judge had no jurisdiction in the case, and lawyers for Montgomery need to file a writ of actual innocence with the Virginia Court of Appeals. The process can take months, lawyers familiar with the process said. Gottstein said the office will work with defense lawyers in an effort to expedite the case.

A public defender representing Montgomery has filed a show-cause motion asking state prison officials to explain why they shouldn’t be held in contempt for failing to comply with the order, according to the stories. The lawyer, Ben Pavlek, told AP he still believes the judge’s order is valid.

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