A New York man who was wrongly convicted of the rape of award-winning author Alice Sebold will receive a $5.5 million payment from the State of New York.
Anthony J. Broadwater, 62, served 16 years behind bars for the 1981 attack.
“I appreciate what Attorney General [Letitia James] has done, and I hope and pray that others in my situation can achieve the same measure of justice,” Broadwater said in a statement, the New York Times reported. “We all suffer from destroyed lives.”
According to Broadwater’s attorney Melissa Swartz, the settlement agreement ended the lawsuit Broadwater had filed because of his wrongful conviction.
“We are obviously excited to get that lawsuit behind us,” Swartz tells PEOPLE. “It is going to provide Anthony with some financial stability for right now.
“We are obviously relieved they were willing to settle the case and they were willing to doing it without actually deposing Anthony which we thought was extremely kind of the attorney’s general’s office to not put him through a deposition,” she added.
In a statement provided to PEOPLE, Attorney General James said Broadwater “was convicted for a crime he never committed, and was incarcerated despite his innocence. While we cannot undo the wrongs from more than four decades ago, this settlement agreement is a critical step to deliver some semblance of justice to Mr. Broadwater.”
Broadwater was a 20-year-old Marine in 1981 when he was accused of raping Sebold, an 18-year-old freshman at Syracuse University.
Despite the fact that the rape victim identified a different man as her attacker during a police lineup assembled six months after the crime, Broadwater was brought to trial.
During Broadwater’s trial, Sebold took the witness stand and pointed at Broadwater when asked if her attacker was present. Broadwater was convicted in 1982 and a judge sentenced him to 8⅓ to 25 years behind bars.
Sebold went on to write the acclaimed book The Lovely Bones, as well as a 1999 memoir, Lucky, about the attack. Broadwater served 16 years in prison, after which he was added to New York’s sex offender registry.
(In 2009, The Lovely Bones was made into a film starring Saoirse Ronan, Rachel Weisz, Mark Wahlberg, Susan Sarandon, and Stanley Tucci.)
For years, Broadwater maintained his innocence — unsuccessfully appealing his conviction four times in his unrelenting mission to clear his name.
For years, the handyman worked only odd jobs here and there, with his rape conviction narrowing his job prospects. For years, he’d attend family gatherings, but leave after only a few minutes — uncomfortable from getting the cold shoulder.
“I don’t have a lot of pictures of my family members, you know?,” explained Broadwater, who spoke to PEOPLE in 2021. “I mean, I’ve got pictures of the family, but I don’t have pictures of me with them.”
In 2021, Broadwater sobbed in court when a judge — approving his fifth and final appeal — pardoned him, finally clearing his name after 40 years.
Since his exoneration, Sebold has apologized to Broadwater and his supporters.
While he’s accepted Sebold’s apology — “If it’s sincere, and from her heart, I can accept it,” he said — he never read her memoir.
“I can’t read that book,” Broadwater told PEOPLE. “I never could read it. I never wanted to cloud my mind about whatever she was saying about whoever she thought had done this to her … It wasn’t me.”
Broadwater currently has a lawsuit filed against Onondaga County, the City of Syracuse, an assistant district attorney and a Syracuse police officer.
“We have turned our focus now to the federal civil rights lawsuit that is still pending,” Swartz says.