Innocent Men Were Sent To Prison And Released Decades Later. Now Gov. Cooper Won’t Pardon Them

“It may not seem like a lot to most people but if you spent a decade, two decades, three decades, four decades in prison for something you didn’t do and to have the governor say we’re sorry for what you went through, it’s extraordinarily powerful,’

“Tim Bridges still gets emotional when he thinks about his meeting with then-Governor Pat McCrory.

“Bridges spent 25 years in prison after being convicted in Charlotte for a rape he didn’t commit.

“He was released from prison in 2015 and exonerated after a court proceeding unearthed new evidence that proved he was not the perpetrator. …

“Bridges had to rely on the help of relatives and whatever job he could get to support himself because, under North Carolina law, he could not receive any compensation from the state without first being granted a pardon of innocence by the governor. …

“Compared to some of the other men who have been wrongfully convicted and later released from prison, Bridges is lucky. He got a pardon. ...

“There are currently four men waiting for a pardon of innocence, including Ronnie Long, who was released from prison in late August after spending 44 years for a rape in Concord he didn’t commit.

“Long was released from prison after decades of legal proceedings that ended with his conviction being vacated and the charges dropped.

“Despite that, he’s still not considered ‘innocent’ in the eyes of the State of North Carolina without a pardon from the governor.

“He served 44-plus years in North Carolina for a crime he didn’t commit; in a case that the Fourth Circuit (Court of Appeals) has described as egregious and continuous state misconduct. And, yet, he’ll get nothing for it if the governor doesn’t grant a pardon of innocence,’ Long’s attorney, Jamie Lau of the Duke Law Wrongful Convictions Clinic, explained.

“Without a pardon, Long and the three other innocent men that have been released from prison who are awaiting a ruling on their clemency applications, cannot get any of the compensation Bridges got.

“And, Lau said, the prospects of getting a pardon from Governor Roy Cooper are grim.

“Presently, it’s impossible to obtain any sort of relief from the current administration,’ Lau said.

“Lau said the governor’s office hasn’t given any response to the four men who have applied for pardons and, in fact, won’t even release a full list of people who have filed clemency applications. …

“Cooper’s inaction in the Long case continued even after 14 Democrats elected to the state house and senate wrote him urging a pardon. …

“Charlotte attorney David Rudolf, who represented Tim Bridges in his civil case against the state and City of Charlotte after he was pardoned, said Cooper’s refusal to act on pardons of innocence is a stark contrast to his predecessor. …

“It may not seem like a lot to most people but if you spent a decade, two decades, three decades, four decades in prison for something you didn’t do and to have the governor say we’re sorry for what you went through, it’s extraordinarily powerful,’ Rudolf said. ‘That has changed, unfortunately, since Governor Cooper.’

“Rudolf said he knows attorneys for two of the men currently awaiting a pardon of innocence have tried to arrange meetings with Cooper like the meeting Bridges had with McCrory.

“Both have run into stone walls,’ Rudolf said. …

“Cooper’s office did not acknowledge or otherwise respond to multiple emails seeking an interview for this story and a WBTV reporter was not allowed to ask Cooper a question during a virtual press conference on Wednesday. …”