- The Washington Times - Monday, July 14, 2003

RICHMOND (AP) — Gov. Mark Warner denied a pardon for a man who has spent 17 years in prison for an attempted rape, though the detective who arrested him now believes the crime was committed by another man.

The prosecutor who put Michael McAlister behind bars also has expressed strong doubts about his guilt. Former Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Joseph D. Morrissey and former city police detective C.M. Martin provided affidavits supporting McAlister’s clemency petition.

“The governor carefully reviewed the clemency petition and the entire record and determined that a pardon was not appropriate,” Mr. Warner’s spokeswoman, Ellen Qualls, said Friday.

McAlister was convicted of the 1986 attempted rape of a woman at her Richmond apartment complex. Mr. Martin believes a more-likely perpetrator was a serial rapist, now serving a life sentence, who strongly resembles McAlister. The serial rapist had been tailed by police to the same apartment facility not long before the assault.

However, the victim picked out McAlister’s photo twice, and he has been denied parole nine times. The case was first brought to light by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, which was unable to find the victim for comment. The governor’s office would not comment on whether she had been contacted.

“This kind of decision makes me question the entire validity of the pardon process,” said Christopher Amolsch, McAlister’s attorney. “If the governor can’t grant a man like Michael McAlister clemency or a pardon when everybody involved in the case acknowledges he’s not the one who did it, what do we even have it for?”

McAlister, being held in the Lunenburg Correctional Center, could not be reached for comment. But his mother, Rebecca McAlister of Richmond, said she was not surprised.

“We were ready for that,” she said. “I just cannot believe any of this. Of course, I’ve been in disbelief for 17 years. He’ll be home next year, anyway, and believe me we’ll have a reunion.”

McAlister must be released in August 2004 under the state’s old parole rules because the crime occurred before the sentencing reforms and abolition of parole in 1995.

He was given a 35-year sentence for the Feb. 23, 1986, abduction and attempted rape of a then-22-year-old mother of two. A man entered a laundry room, forced her outside with a knife and made her undress. She struggled and scared him off.


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