Innocent man freed after 14 years not angry

March 12, 2013 6:10:51 PM PDT
An Oakland man who was exonerated after spending 14 years in prison for a sex crime he never committed says he's not angry and just wants to move forward with his life. Johnny Williams is now 38-years-old and now that he's a free man, he considers it a window in his life. He wants to go to school, get a job, and spend more time with his family.

"I feel blessed. I'm happy," Williams told ABC7 News. He credits his strong faith for keeping his hopes alive that someday he would exonerate. In 1998, then 23-years-old, he was arrested for sexually assaulting a 9-year-old girl when she was walking to school in East Oakland. The girl told her mother that she heard her attacker say his name was Johnny.

"Somebody in the victim's family knew Johnny from the neighborhood and they heard the name Johnny. They jumped to the conclusion that it was Johnny Williams," said Maitreya Badami with Northern California Innocence Project. During trial, the girl testified that Williams was her attacker. He was sent to Donovan State Prison in San Diego.

He said the 14 years he spent there was a living hell, but his spirit could not be defeated. "I read my books and I read the bible and everything to keep me positive. It kept me focused on what reality was," he said. Reality for Williams was his innocence. One day, he learned about the Innocence Project. "When I seen these people on TV, the Innocence Project and everything, and see what they're doing for other people, I said, 'I'm going to take this chance. I have to write them,'" he recalled.

Williams wrote a letter in 2006 that touched the staff at the Innocence Project. He said he was innocent. "Please help... I'm not lying," he wrote. Lawyers for the project received authorization to test the girl's clothing for evidence. They found sperm on her t-shirt which did not match Williams' DNA.

On Friday, Alameda County prosecutors concluded that Williams, who had already been paroled, was not guilty. "I've never been mad about this 'cause I knew sooner or later, if I stayed true to my beliefs and God, you know, sooner or later the truth should come out," he told ABC7 News.

Williams says he is not angry at the young girl who testified against him during the trial. He just wants police to find the real attacker.


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