Author Alice Sebold apologizes to Anthony Broadwater, wrongfully convicted of raping her

Broadwater's 1982 conviction was overturned last week after authorities determined there were serious flaws in his prosecution.

Loading the player...

Anthony Broadwater served 16 undeserved years in prison after Alice Sebold wrongly identified him as the man who raped her in 1981 when she was a freshman at Syracuse University. 

As previously reported, Broadwater’s 1982 conviction was overturned on Nov. 24 after authorities determined there were serious flaws in his prosecution. The only evidence linking the then-20-year-old man to the brutal attack was Sebold’s identification and microscopic hair evidence rooted in what has since been deemed “junk science.” 

Anthony Broadwater (center), now 61, was 20 years old when he was convicted of the first-degree rape of Alice Sebold. He was exonerated on Nov. 24 in New York State Supreme Court, and Sebold has since apologized. (Photo: Screenshot/Syracuse.com)

According to NBC News, Sebold identified Broadwater after seeing him, a Black man walking down the street near the location of the attack. Her alleged attacker was also Black. A police officer suggested that the attacker was Broadwater, who had been “seen in the area.” 

Sebold, the author of 2002’s The Lovely Bones, and her million-selling 1999 memoir, Lucky — which detailed her 1981 rape and began her writing career — wrote an apology to Broadwater on Tuesday, published in Medium

In Lucky, Sebold says that while she did not identify Broadwater in a police lineup, she chose another man because of the “expression in his eyes, she did identify Broadwater from the witness stand, and he was convicted of first-degree rape. 

Alice Sebold, shown in 2002, has apologized to the man she wrongly identified as her rapist in 1981 when she was a freshman at Syracuse University. (Photo: Jim Cooper/AP)

“First, I want to say that I am truly sorry to Anthony Broadwater and I deeply regret what you have been through,” she begins. “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. Of the many things I wish for you, I hope most of all that you and your family will be granted the time and privacy to heal.” 

Sebold writes that “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,” she asserts, “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.” 

Sebold adds that America is grappling with the “systemic issues” that “too often means justice for some comes at the expense of others.” 

“It has taken me these past eight days to comprehend how this could have happened. I will continue to struggle with the role that I unwittingly played within a system that sent an innocent man to jail. I will also grapple with the fact that my rapist will, in all likelihood, never be known, may have gone on to rape other women, and certainly will never serve the time in prison that Mr. Broadwater did.” 

She concludes by saying, “Throughout my life, I have always tried to act with integrity and to speak from a place of honesty. And so, I state here clearly that I will remain sorry for the rest of my life that while pursuing justice through the legal system, my own misfortune resulted in Mr. Broadwater’s unfair conviction for which he has served not only 16 years behind bars but in ways that further serve to wound and stigmatize, nearly a full life sentence.” 

So he could be the first to read it, Broadwater was sent a copy of Sebold’s apology before it was published, he told The Syracuse Post-Standard.

“It comes sincerely from her heart,” he said. “She knowingly admits what happened. I accept her apology.”

Broadwater has since told reporters that he has “been crying tears of joy and relief” since he was exonerated. 

Broadwater has been free since 1999, but his life has been stunted by his status as a sex offender. He notes that he has been turned away from jobs, educational opportunities, and he even chose to not have children due to his conviction status. 

As previously reported, the case was re-examined after producers planned to turn Lucky into a film and began to delve into the details of the attack. The book’s onscreen adaptation project has since been dropped.

Have you subscribed to theGrio podcasts “Dear Culture” or “Acting Up?” Download our newest episodes now!
TheGrio is now on Apple TV, Amazon Fire and Roku. Download theGrio.com today!

Loading the player...