A copy of Sebold’s apology was sent to Mr Broadwater so he could be the first to read it. After the apology was read out loud, he burst into tears.
“It comes sincerely from her heart,” Mr Broadwater told Syracuse.com. “She knowingly admits what happened. I accept her apology. It was a big relief. It must have taken a lot of courage to come to terms and make that apology.”
“It’s still painful to me because I was wrongfully convicted, but this will help me in my process to come to peace with what happened,” he said, adding that it took some time for the apology to sink in.
Mr Broadwater was already at the office of his lawyers when Sebold’s representatives reached out with the apology. “He cried. His wife cried, too,” David Hammond, Mr Broadwater’s lawyer, said.
Sebold, who wrote the bestselling The Lovely Bones, picked out Mr Broadwater as her rapist in court 40 years ago, and he was subsequently sentenced to 16 years in prison. He continued to profess his innocence and he was exonerated of the crime in court last week.
“First, I want to say that I am truly sorry to Anthony Broadwater and I deeply regret what you have been through. I am sorry most of all for the fact that the life you could have led was unjustly robbed from you, and I know that no apology can change what happened to you and never will,” she wrote on the blogging platform Medium.
Sebold added: “As a traumatised 18-year-old rape victim, I chose to put my faith in the American legal system. My goal in 1982 was justice – not to perpetuate injustice.”
“I am grateful that Mr Broadwater has finally been vindicated, but the fact remains that 40 years ago, he became another young Black man brutalised by our flawed legal system. I will forever be sorry for what was done to him,” she added.
A New York Supreme Court justice found last week that the conviction of Mr Broadwater relied heavily on the author’s testimony and a method of microscopic hair analysis, which has since been discredited.
Mr Broadwater was released from prison in 1998 but remained on New York’s sex offender registry. He will now be struck from the register.
Mr Broadwater, who has working as a trash hauler and a handyman in the years since his release from prison in 1999, told the Associated Press that the rape conviction had blighted his job prospects and his relationships with friends and family members.
“I did everything that I could do to show people that hey I am never that type of guy, I never could be that type of guy. A lot of doors have been slammed in my face for jobs,” he said.
Even after he married a woman who believed in his innocence, Mr Broadwater never wanted to have children. “She wanted children, I wouldn’t bring children in the world because of this. And now we are past the age, we can’t have children,” he said.
In 1999, Sebold wrote about her experience of rape in her memoir Lucky. Her publishers Scribner, a division of Simon and Schuster, announced after Mr Broadwater’s exoneration that distribution of all formats of the book would cease “while Sebold and Scribner together consider how the work might be revised”.
If you have been raped or sexually assaulted, you can contact your nearest Rape Crisis organisation for specialist, independent and confidential support. For more information, visit their website here.
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