- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 17, 2004

RICHMOND (AP) — An inmate who was denied clemency for a crime that the detective who arrested him now thinks was committed by another man will be freed tomorrow on mandatory parole after 18 years in prison.

Michael McAlister, who has been denied discretionary parole nine times, must be released under the state’s old parole rules because the crime occurred before abolition of parole in 1995.

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

McAlister, 48, has maintained that he did not commit the crime. Because the crime was an attempted rape, there was no DNA evidence involved.

The victim identified McAlister as her attacker in a photo-spread lineup and in the courtroom.

The prosecutor who put McAlister behind bars since 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 to Gov. Mark Warner.

Mr. Martin thinks a more likely perpetrator of the crime was a serial rapist, now serving a life sentence, who strongly resembles McAlister. The serial rapist had been tailed by police to the same apartments not long before the assault.

But Mr. Warner denied clemency for McAlister in July 2003.

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

McAlister told the Richmond Times-Dispatch this month that he expects his mother, his aunt and uncle from Texas, and his sister and brother-in-law to be on hand when he is released from Lunenburg Correctional Center.

“This time, I know that nobody can stop it. I’m having trouble sleeping. My daughter’s supposed to come up with my grandson in September. I’m really excited. This will be the first time she’s seen me out of prison,” he said.

McAlister said he is bitter.

“It’s pretty much just destroyed my faith in people. You can’t trust anybody. That’s been one of the hardest things — being away from my family.

“I’ve been filled with hatred. I hate to say it. But that’s, that’s what’s gotten me through it. It’s the last thing you think about before you go to bed and the first thing you think of in the morning as soon as your eyes pop open: ‘This is real and I did not do it and they know I did not do it, and here I am.’”

McAlister said he will meet with a Richmond lawyer after he gets out.

“I’m going to try and get my name cleared,” he said. “And try to get some kind of justice.”

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