Anthony Broadwater Exonerated After Wrongfully Jailed For 16 Years


Photo taken by Eunho Jung

By Eunho Jung, Senior Editor

On Monday, November 23, Anthony Broadwater’s 39-year long conviction of first-degree rape and five other related charges were overturned by State Supreme Court Justice Gordon J. Cuffy. Alice Sebold, a renowned author best known for her novel The Lovely Bones, wrongfully accused Broadwater of brutally raping her while she was a student at Syracuse University.

In 1981, 20-year-old Anthony Broadwater returned home to Syracuse, New York after a stint in the Marine Corps in California. He had returned home to his father’s failing health condition. However, his trip back home would forever change his life.

Alice Sebold, a freshman at Syracuse University, was brutally attacked, beaten, and raped while walking home through a tunnel in a park on the morning of May 8, 1981.  Five months later, on October 5, 1981, Sebold spotted Anthony Broadwater while walking on campus and believed him to be the person who had attacked her. He was shortly arrested.

In a police lineup, Sebold failed to identify Anthony Broadwater. She first picked a different man and due to the urging of the prosecutor, who falsely told her that Mr. Broadwater and the man next to him were friends, she identified Broadwater as her attacker in court.

In 1982, Anthony Broadwater was tried and convicted for the rape of Sebold on only two pieces of evidence: Sebold’s identification and a now-discredited method of hair analysis.

Sebold went on to write Lucky, a memoir that detailed her assault and her journey to recovery. Published in 1999, her memoir sold over one million copies and started her career as an author. Three years later, Sebold published The Lovely Bones, a fictional novel surrounding sexual assault, selling more than eight million copies. In 2009, a film adaptation of The Lovely Bones was released starring celebrities, Saoirse Ronan, Stanley Tucci, and Mark Wahlberg.

In 2019, it was announced that a film adaption of “Lucky” would be created by film director Karen Moncrieff. Victoria Pedretti, Netflix’s YOU star, was selected to star as Sebold. However, executive producer Tim Mucciante began to notice discrepancies between the 1999 memoir and the film adaption script. He became troubled by what he discovered that he dropped out of the movie and hired a private investigator, Dan Meyers, to confirm his skepticism. Meyers, who spent 20 years working for the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office became convinced of Broadwater’s innocence.

“Identifying people is difficult. The mind does some funny things, but I’m sure that her description of what happened is accurate,” Meyers told NPR.

After serving 16 years in jail for a wrongful conviction, Broadwater was released in 1998. However, his perils did not stop. Listed on the National Sex Offender Registry, Broadwater struggled to find employment and rehabilitate back into society.

“On my two hands, I can count the people that allowed me to grace their homes and dinners, and I don’t get past 10,” Broadwater said. “That’s very traumatic to me.”

After marrying his wife, Broadwater chose to not have children due to fear of the stigma his children may have faced due to their father’s wrongful conviction. “[My wife] wanted children. I wouldn’t bring children in the world because of this. And now we’re past the age. We can’t have children,” Broadwater shared.

At the court hearing Monday, Broadwater broke down into tears and wept as his conviction was overturned.

“I won’t sully these proceedings by saying I’m sorry,” District Attorney William Fitzpatrick said in the courtroom. “That doesn’t cut it. This should never have happened.”
Author Alice Sebold released a statement on Tuesday, November 30. “I am sorry most of all for the fact that the life you could have led was unjustly robbed from you,” she wrote. “And I know that no apology can change what happened to you and never will. It has taken me these past eight days to comprehend how this could have happened.” Broadwater was “relieved and grateful” for Sebold’s apology in a statement issued by his lawyers.
Publisher Simon & Schuster plans to cease all distribution of Lucky until Sebold considers how the work could be revised.
Arnav Garg, a senior at Wayne Hills, shared his thoughts on Broadwater’s exoneration. “It’s disheartening that Broadwater was convicted of a crime he didn’t commit,” Garg explained. “He shouldn’t have been convicted, as I believe the evidence was not thorough enough and didn’t objectively prove he was guilty.”
After spending 16 years in prison, Broadwater can finally move on from this dark chapter of his life. A friend of Timothy Mucciante, the film producer, started a GoFundMe for Broadwater. It has surpassed its goal of $25,000, with a total of over $40,000. All proceeds will be given to Broadwater as reparations for the mental, legal, and psychological damage he has incurred.