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Governor frees wrongly convicted man

Gov. Bob McDonnell issued a conditional pardon late Tuesday that led to freedom for a North Carolina man who has served four years in prison based on false accusations.

The release came after hasty legal and investigative work by lawyers for Montgomery and by the governor’s staff.

Johnathan Montgomery was released on conditional clemency based on his agreement to file a writ of actual innocence within 30 days and to remain under state supervision while the writ petition is pending.

The request for a conditional pardon was received at 10 p.m. Monday night, according to the governor’s office. Over the next 20 hours, the governor’s staff reviewed two taped interviews with Montgomery’s accuser, court records and transcripts, prison records, and the police case file on the accuser’s recantation. McDonnell staffers interviewed the Hampton commonwealth’s attorney and the police department, the pardon recites.

McDonnell called Montgomery at 5:15 Tuesday afternoon to advise him of the pardon. He was released later that evening.

Montgomery’s case led to calls for reform of Virginia’s so-called 21-day rule barring any trial court relief from a criminal judgment after 21 days have passed.

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