ASHEVILLE (AP) — A North Carolina judge has dismissed all charges and overturned the sentence of a man who spent 22 years in prison after his conviction in a child sex abuse case.
The Asheville Citizen-Times reportsthat a judge overturned Michael Alan Parker’s sentence — eight consecutive life terms plus 40 years — during a hearing on Monday.
A statement from The Duke Law School’s Wrongful Convictions Clinic said Parker was released Tuesday from Craggy Correctional Center in Asheville and greeted his brother and legal team outside the gate.
“I feel great,” Parker said. “I’m not even looking back. I’m looking out at the trees — I’m headed that way. I’m headed straight. I’m not looking back.”
In February 1993, a Henderson County grand jury indicted Parker and eight others on charges that they ritually abused Parker’s three children. Parker was convicted nearly a year later of eight counts of first-degree sex offense and four counts of taking indecent liberties with a minor.
The judge’s ruling came in response to a request filed by the Duke clinic and defense attorney Sean Devereux.
“There is absolutely no doubt in my mind as to Michael’s innocence,” Devereux said.
Henderson County District Attorney Greg Newman objected to Parker’s release but respected Judge Marvin Pope’s decision.
“We believe that this defendant did something to this kid,” Newman said. “I think the question of what he did has been raised, and I think there’s a legitimate issue there. So we may never know for sure. This happened a long time ago.”
Devereux said Parker was offered a deal one year ago that would have nullified the convictions and allowed him to leave prison based on time served if he pleaded guilty to some of the offenses.
“He wouldn’t do that,” Devereux said. “He stayed in another year — and potentially stayed in forever. He’s a pretty courageous guy.”