by David M. Reutter
After 25 years of proclaiming their innocence in a rape case, three Louisiana prisoners accepted plea bargains that cleared their way for release. The plea offer came after the victim recanted his testimony in April 2018.
While serving a year-long sentence for burglary, Byron Morgan, who was 17 at the time, claimed on January 12, 1994 that he was sexually assaulted by fellow prisoners Louis Alexander, Jr., 51, Gerald LeBoeuf, 45, and Michael C. Williams, Jr., 46, while at the Orleans Parish Prison. Following a 1995 trial, the three men were convicted of aggravated rape and aggravated crime against nature, and sentenced to life in prison.
Morgan had a change of heart after doctors told him to “get [his] affairs in order” due to a serious illness. Against their advice, he traveled to New Orleans and testified in closed chambers before Judge Byron C. Williams. Morgan, now 43, said he lied about being raped, and picked Alexander, LeBoeuf and Williams at random after an older prisoner counseled him that a claim of rape would get him released. That proved to be incorrect, as it never affected Morgan’s sentence.
As he broke down telling the story, Morgan said, “It’s been a prison for myself. I mean, I wasn’t necessarily physically in prison for 25 years, but mentally and emotionally. My heart was convicted by God.”
In 2012, Morgan claimed that he had been raped at the Orleans Parish Prison again after being jailed at the facility – which he later said was “an attempt to focus attention on the earlier [rape] case,” The Advocate reported.
“Back in 2012, I purposely said it all over again ... so that they’ll know that something’s not right, because I could not get through to these people,” Morgan said.
Prosecutors continued to contest the reversal of Alexander, LeBoeuf and Williams’ convictions, and appealed to the Louisiana Supreme Court to challenge the trial court’s ruling that their convictions could be set aside outside the time limits due to “newly discovered evidence.” A DNA test of Morgan’s clothing also was pending, after Assistant District Attorney Kyle Daly announced that his office had recently found an evidence box containing the clothes Morgan was wearing when he claimed he was raped in 1994. Meanwhile, the prosecution disclosed that the original prosecutor in the case, Glynn Alexander, recalled Morgan saying before trial that “it [the rape] didn’t happen.”
While awaiting a ruling by the Supreme Court and the DNA test results, prosecutors offered pleas to aggravated battery that would result in Alexander, LeBoeuf and Williams’ release and will not require them to register as sex offenders.
“Defendants are happy to cut these sorts of deals and plead guilty, even if they didn’t do it, so they can go home today,” noted Dane Ciolino, a professor at the Loyola University College of Law. However, such plea bargains also make it difficult if not impossible for defendants to file suit over their wrongful convictions.
The three prisoners were returned to the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola pending the recalculation of their sentences. Only Williams will remain incarcerated as he waits to be paroled on a separate armed robbery conviction.
“Appreciate it, your honor,” Williams said after accepting the plea agreement. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
Sources: nola.com, theadvocate.com
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