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Author Alice Sebold apologises to innocent man jailed for 16 years after she identified him as her rapist

Author Alice Sebold has apologised to the man who spent 16 years in jail after she wrongly identified him as raping her in 1981.

Anthony Broadwater, 61, was convicted and jailed the following year for attacking Ms Sebold when she was an 18-year-old student at Syracuse University.

His conviction was overturned last week by prosecutors who determined there were serious flaws in his arrest and trial.

In a public letter addressed to Mr Broadwater, Ms Sebold said she was truly sorry for what he’d been through.

The 58-year-old wrote: “As a traumatised 18-year-old rape victim, I chose to put my faith in the American legal system.

Author Alice Sebold. Pic: AP
Image: Ms Sebold said she will continue to ‘struggle with the role’ she ‘unwittingly played’ in the conviction. Pic: AP

“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.”

She added: “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…

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“I will continue to struggle with the role that I unwittingly played within a system that sent an innocent man to jail.”

In a statement released via his lawyers, Mr Broadwater said he was “relieved that she has apologised”.

He went on: “It must have taken a lot of courage for her to do that.

“It’s still painful to me because I was wrongfully convicted, but this will help me in my process to come to peace with what happened.”

According to Variety, studio executives have cancelled an upcoming film based on Ms Sebold’s book Lucky, that details how she was raped and beaten inside a tunnel near her university campus.

The 1999 book describes how Ms Sebold spotted a Black man in the street several months after the incident who she believed was her attacker.

When she went to police, an officer said the man must have been Mr Broadwater, who had supposedly been seen in the area. He is given the pseudonym Gregory Madison in the book.

After Mr Broadwater was arrested, Ms Sebold failed to identify him in a police line-up, picking a different man as her attacker because she was frightened of “the expression in his eyes”.

But prosecutors put Mr Broadwater on trial anyway.

He was convicted based largely on Ms Sebold identifying him as her rapist on the witness stand and testimony that microscopic hair analysis had tied him to the crime.

Syracuse University campus
Image: Ms Sebold was 18-years-old when she was attacked near Syracuse University campus (pictured via AP)

That type of analysis has since been discredited by the US Department of Justice.

Mr Broadwater, who was released from prison in 1998, told the Associated Press last week he was crying “tears of joy and relief” after his conviction was overturned by a judge in Syracuse.

Publisher Simon & Schuster and its imprint Scribner said on Tuesday they had ceased distribution of Lucky in all formats and were working with the author to consider how it might be revised.

Ms Sebold, who is also known for her books The Lovely Bones and The Almost Moon, added in her statement: “I am grateful that Mr Broadwater has finally been vindicated, but the fact remains that 40 years ago, he became another young Black man brutalised by our flawed legal system.

“I will forever be sorry for what was done to him.”