"Rebuilding the Lives of the Wrongfully Convicted"

McDonnell asked to pardon Jonathan Montgomery


Lawyers for Jonathan Montgomery, an innocent Florida man in prison for sexual assaults the victim now says did not happen, have filed a request for a conditional pardon with Gov. Bob McDonnell's office.

Shawn Armbrust, executive director of the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project, said this morning that the request was filed Monday night. Montgomery, 26, is serving a seven-year, six-month sentence for crimes allegedly committed in Hampton in 2000 against Elizabeth Paige Coast, who recently admitted she lied and is facing a perjury charge.

A conditional pardon would allow Montgomery to be released while a petition for a writ of actual innocence is drafted and filed with the Virginia Court of Appeals.

Tucker Martin, a McDonnell spokesman, said today, "we have received the petition for a conditional pardon. We are currently reviewing it."

Coast did not accuse Montgomery of wrongdoing until years later. He was convicted in 2008 and sentenced in 2009.

Montgomery's lawyer, Ben Pavek; Hampton Commonwealth's Attorney Anton Bell and the judge who convicted him all believe Montgomery is innocent, and they attempted to get him out of prison earlier this month.

But a Virginia rule takes jurisdiction away from a circuit judge 21 days after a case is final and Montgomery can be released only with a pardon from McDonnell or a writ of actual innocence from the Virginia Court of Appeals.

The offices of McDonnell and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said this week that they are willing to assist Montgomery as promptly as possible and in any appropriate way.

The innocence project and Pavek are also working on a petition for a writ of actual innocence which must be filed with the Virginia Court of Appeals.