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Author Alice Sebold apologizes to Black man who wrongly spent 16 years in prison for her rape

After being arrested at the age of 20, Broadwater was exonerated last month in a Syracuse courtroom at the age of 61. 

Author Alice Sebold apologizes to Black man who wrongly spent 16 years in prison for her rape
Image source: YouTube Screenshot/

Author Alice Sebold has apologized to Anthony Broadwater, a Black man who was wrongly convicted of raping her in 1982. He spent 16 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit and Sebold played a role in convicting him. "First, I want to say that I am truly sorry to Anthony Broadwater and I deeply regret what you have been through. I am sorry most of all for the fact that the life you could have led was unjustly robbed from you, and I know that no apology can change what happened to you and never will," she said in a statement. The author also blamed the 'flawed American legal system' for Broadwater being incarcerated. 


In May 1981, Sebold, then a 19-year-old student, was attacked and raped in a tunnel from a path in a public park. Five months later, when she walked down the street in Syracuse, she saw a man she believed to be her attacker. In her memoir, 'Lucky,' she described him as being the same height, the same build, and there was something about his posture. Initially, she pushed the thought away as she wondered if she just had felt “just a more intense version of the fear I had felt around certain black men ever since the rape.” He then walked in her direction. Sebold writes in her memoir that he spoke to her. “Hey, girl. Don’t I know you from somewhere? He smirked at me, remembering,” she wrote. She thought she knew it was him. A policeman spoke to him and identified him as Anthony Broadwater, a 20-year-old who was in the marines and has just returned after a stint as a marine as his father was very sick, reported The Guardian.


Broadwater was arrested and subsequently made to stand in a line-up, among four other Black men, for Sebold to identify. They stood facing a mirror while Sebold stood behind the pane of glass to identify her attacker. She immediately ruled out the first three as they were considerably taller than her attacker. She looked past the fourth man and stared at number five. “He was looking at me, looking right at me … the expression in his eyes told me that if we were alone, if there were no wall between us, he would call me by name and then kill me,” she wrote in her book. She had picked number 5 as the man she saw on the street and as her attacker. The only problem was that Anthony Broadwater was number four.

Police lineup of men from which Alice Sebold picked her rapist/Police Handout

An assistant district attorney reportedly nudged her, saying Broadwater knew the other person and had brought him along to “give you a look that’s scary” to trick her.  It turned out they were meeting for the first time. Authorities took a sample of Broadwater’s pubic hair and found that it matched that of a suspect's that was found on Sebold at the time of the attack. He was jailed for 16 years on the basis of that evidence. The technique used to match two hairs has since been entirely discredited. He was denied parole at least five times because he refused to admit to the crime until he was eventually released in 1999. After being arrested at the age of 20, he was exonerated last month in a Syracuse courtroom at the age of 61. 


"40 years ago, as a traumatized 18-year-old rape victim, I chose to put my faith in the American legal system. My goal in 1982 was justice — not to perpetuate injustice. And certainly not to forever, and irreparably, alter a young man’s life by the very crime that had altered mine. I am grateful that Mr. Broadwater has finally been vindicated, but the fact remains that 40 years ago, he became another young Black man brutalized by our flawed legal system. I will forever be sorry for what was done to him," she said. "Today, American society is starting to acknowledge and address the systemic issues in our judicial system that too often means that justice for some comes at the expense of others. Unfortunately, this was not a debate, or a conversation, or even a whisper when I reported my rape in 1981," she wrote.


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