Alice Sebold

Anthony J. Broadwater spent 16 years in prison after being wrongly convicted in the assault in Syracuse, N.Y., which Ms. Sebold, a well-known novelist, described in her memoir “Lucky.”

New York State has agreed to pay $5.5 million to a man who spent 16 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of raping the author Alice Sebold when she was a college student in Syracuse, N.Y.

The 62-year-old man, Anthony J. Broadwater, filed the lawsuit after his conviction for rape was overturned by a state court judge in November 2021. The judge said that the case against Mr. Broadwater was deeply flawed.

Last week, lawyers for Mr. Broadwater and Letitia James, who is New York’s solicitor general, signed the agreement. It still needs to be signed by a judge, but one of Mr. Broadwater’s lawyers, Melissa Swartz, said that the judge, Ramón E. Rivera of the state’s Court of Claims, gave his verbal approval last month.

“I appreciate what Attorney General James has done, and I hope and pray that others in my situation can achieve the same measure of justice,” Mr. Broadwater said in a statement on Monday. “We all have to deal with broken lives.”

Ms. Swartz said that Mr. Broadwater was especially happy that the state’s lawyers hadn’t made him sit for a deposition and talk about what happened. She said, “That would be very hard for Tony to go through.”

In a statement, Ms. James said that the settlement was “an important step towards giving Mr. Broadwater a sense of justice.”

In 1981, Ms. Sebold was raped in a park near Syracuse University, where she was a freshman at the time. In her 1999 memoir, “Lucky,” she wrote in raw detail about the attack. “Lucky” was a prequel to her best-selling novel “The Lovely Bones,” which is also about a teen being raped. In the book, she made up a name for the man who had raped her. He was called Gregory Madison.

As she wrote in “Lucky,” Ms. Sebold told campus security about the attack right away and then went to the police. After evidence from a rape kit was gathered, she wrote, she told the police about her attacker and a composite sketch did not look like him.

Five months later, Ms. Sebold saw Mr. Broadwater on the street and called the police to say she might have seen the man who had raped her. Mr. Broadwater was then arrested.

She subsequently identified a different man in a police lineup. She wrote in “Lucky” that Mr. Broadwater and the man next to him looked alike and that soon after making her choice, she felt it was the wrong one. She later identified Mr. Broadwater in court.

Mr. Broadwater’s lawyers said that the prosecutor had messed up the police lineup by telling Ms. Sebold that Mr. Broadwater and the man next to him were friends who were in the lineup together on purpose to trick her. Lawyers for Mr. Broadwater said that the lie had an unfair effect on Ms. Sebold’s testimony.

In 1998, Mr. Broadwater got out of prison, and when “Lucky” came out, he was still trying to get his life back on track. The fact that he had to register as a sex offender made it harder for him to start over.

He finally hired Ms. Swartz and her colleague J. David Hammond to clear his name, in part because a movie was going to be made from the memoir. In their motion to overturn the conviction, they said that the whole case was based on Ms. Sebold’s identification of him in court and on a method of microscopic hair analysis that is no longer used.

William J. Fitzpatrick, who is the current district attorney of Onondaga County, New York, agreed with the motion to overturn the conviction. He said that people’s descriptions of strangers, especially when they are of different races (Ms. Sebold is white and Mr. Broadwater is black), are not always accurate.

In 2021, Justice Gordon J. Cuffy of State Supreme Court in Onondaga County overturned Mr. Broadwater’s conviction for first-degree rape and five related charges. He did not have to sign up as a sex offender anymore.

Mr. Broadwater said at the time, “It’s going to be a long day.”

In addition to suing the state, Mr. Broadwater also sued Onondaga County and the City of Syracuse for violating his civil rights. He also sued an assistant district attorney and a police officer who helped the state prosecute him. That case is still open.

After leaving prison, Mr. Broadwater has largely relied on temporary jobs: working at a metal plating factory, bagging potatoes, doing yardwork and roofing, mopping floors, scavenging for scrap metal. Ms. Swartz said that one thing he wants to do with the money from the settlement with the state is buy a small house in the country where he and his partner can live.

In a statement posted online about a week after Mr. Broadwater’s conviction was overturned, Ms. Sebold apologised to him. She said she was sorry that she had “accidentally” been a part of “a system that put an innocent man in jail.”

“I am most sorry that the life you could have had was taken from you unfairly,” she wrote. “And I know that no apology can change what happened to you and never will.”

Mr. Broadwater said at the time that he was “relieved and grateful” for the apology, that “it took a lot of courage” and that “she was a victim and I was a victim too.”

In a brief statement on Monday after news of the deal became public, Ms. Sebold was candid about its limitations.

“No amount of money can erase the injustices Mr. Broadwater suffered,” she said. “But the settlement now officially acknowledges them.”

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