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Man seeking compensation for wrongful imprisonment

(AP) A Virginia man who was wrongfully convicted in a 1979 rape and burglary case is still trying to get compensation from the state for his wrongful imprisonment.

Calvin Wayne Cunningham told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that the conviction sent his life into a downward spiral.

He was exonerated in 2011, but was never compensated. After his 1988 parole, he began using drugs and committing other crimes to support his habit. He went back to prison in 1999, 2001, 2005 and 2009.

In 2010, DNA testing proved he was innocent of the 1979 rape and burglary. Three years later, state Sen. Louise Lucas, D-Portsmouth, introduced a bill to award him almost $300,000 in compensation. But she withdrew the bill before it could be voted on in committee.

Cunningham, who is back in prison again, told the Times-Dispatch in a recent interview that Lucas told him her colleagues in the then-Republican-controlled legislature would not award the compensation because of his later convictions. Lucas did not respond to requests for comment.

Cunningham insists it was his wrongful convictions that led to his subsequent crimes. He said he hopes the new Democratic majority in the legislature will award him compensation.

Virginia law on compensation is based on a formula that equals 90% of the average state income, adjusted for inflation, for each year of incarceration.

The law states that someone awarded compensation loses the annuity payments if they commit a new crime. But Cunningham said that provision does not apply to him because he was never awarded compensation.

Cunningham, now 67, is in prison after being convicted of grand larceny, contempt of court, obstructing justice and falsely identifying himself to law enforcement. His projected release date is in 2023.

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