Washington, D.C., April 8, 2015 -- This morning, Miller & Chevalier Chartered, the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project (MAIP) and the Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney, Michael N. Herring, filed a Joint Petition for an Absolute Pardon on behalf of Michael McAlister, who has spent more than 29 years in prison for an attempted rape he did not commit.
The men who arrested and prosecuted Mr. McAlister have believed in his innocence for more than 20 years. However, Mr. McAlister remains incarcerated because the Virginia Attorney General's Office is seeking to civilly commit him as a sexually violent predator, a designation for which Mr. McAlister would not be eligible but for his 1986 wrongful conviction. "Mr. McAlister has been living a nightmare for three decades," said James Bensfield, Member and Chair of Miller & Chevalier's White Collar and Internal Investigations practice, who in conjunction with MAIP represents McAlister along with firm Counsel Jonathan Kossak. "Imagine sitting in prison all those years knowing the detective who arrested you and the prosecutor who convicted you don't think you did it. It's the kind of hell we hope never happens to us, but it happened to Mr. McAlister and it is time for it to end," he said.
Michael Herring, the current Richmond Commonwealth's Attorney, said, "In the history of my law practice, I am unaware of any other case where every law enforcement person who had a significant role to play in the conviction of an individual has voiced such strong doubt about his guilt."
Under Virginia law, however, this is not enough to secure Mr. McAlister's freedom. Instead, Mr. McAlister has remained in prison beyond his mandatory release date of January 15, 2015, and will continue to do so while the civil commitment process plays itself out in the courts. That process does not allow him to raise his innocence of the underlying offense, so Mr. McAlister is seeking an expedited absolute pardon to avoid a second unjust decision to restrict his liberty and be released from prison as a truly free man -- not a sex offender -- for the first time in almost three decades.
"Governor McAuliffe is the only person in Virginia with the power to end Mr. McAlister's 29-year nightmare for good," said Shawn Armbrust, MAIP's Executive Director. "We hope he acts quickly to do justice and return Mr. McAlister to his mother and daughters."
Mr. McAlister is being represented pro bono by James Bensfield and Jonathan Kossak of Miller & Chevalier and Ms. Armbrust and Frances Walters at MAIP.
About the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project
The Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project (MAIP) is a non-profit organization dedicated to correcting and preventing the conviction of innocent people in the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. MAIP works with a dedicated Board of Directors and scores of pro bono lawyers and law students to screen and investigate the cases of prisoners who request assistance. MAIP then provides pro bono investigative and legal help in the most compelling cases, working to ensure that innocent prisoners obtain their freedom. For more information, visit http://www.exonerate.org/.
About Miller & Chevalier
Founded in 1920, Miller & Chevalier is a Washington, D.C. law firm with a global perspective and leading practices in Tax, Employee Benefits (including ERISA), International Law and Business, White Collar and Internal Investigations, Complex Litigation, and Government Affairs. In an era of big law, Miller & Chevalier is a top-ranked firm sharply focused on targeted areas that interact with the federal government. Over the past three years, the firm's lawyers have represented more than 40 percent of the Fortune 100, one-quarter of the Fortune 500 and approximately 30 percent of the Global 100. Based in Washington, D.C., a significant number of firm lawyers have held senior positions in the U.S. government and have written many of the regulations they currently help clients navigate. For more information on the firm, visit www.millerchevalier.com.
James Bensfield, Miller & Chevalier, 202-626-6032
Laura Miller, Media Relations, Greentarget, 312-252-4104