After spending nearly 17 years behind bars in a Louisiana prison on a charge of rape that he did not commit, Nathan Brown, 40, found himself a free man.

“I’m just happy to be free,” Brown told reporters. “Back with my family; it’s a wonderful feeling.”

Brown was arrested in August 1997 on suspicion he tried to rape a 40-year-old woman at a Metairie apartment where they both lived. He was convicted of the crime just three months later and sentenced to 25 years in prison without the possibility of parole.

But after a request by the Innocence Project to have the the Jefferson Parish District Attorney conduct DNA testing, the results excluded Brown as the source of the DNA samples and identified another known individual as a suspect in the case.

Those results led District Attorney Paul Connick Jr. to vacate Brown’s attempted aggravated rape conviction and dismiss the case, resulting in his immediate release.

At the time, investigators used the victim’s description to charge Brown, but again, after a thorough review of the case by the Conviction Integrity Panel, it was concluded Brown did not commit the crime.

According to the Innocence Project, which works to clear wrongfully convicted people, Brown was at his home rocking his young daughter when police took him from his home and presented him in a highly suggestive lineup to a woman who had been attacked earlier on the grounds outside the apartment building.  Although the victim, who was white, told police that she observed her attacker get on a bike and leave the scene, police sought Brown based on information from the building’s security guard who did not observe the incident.

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