The last four years for 26-year-old Jonathan Montgomery have been like something from a Russian novel. His freedom had been stripped away, all because of a false accusation of sexual assault. The accusation has since been rescinded. Just as he was set to be released from jail, Virginia’s Attorney General, Kenneth Cuccinelli put a halt to his dreams of freedom.
From the Washington Post:
Jonathan Montgomery, 26, was convicted in 2008 of sexually assaulting Elizabeth Paige Coast (whose name was released because she is now being charged with perjury). The accuser, then 17, claimed Montgomery assaulted her outside her grandmother’s house in Hampton in 2000 when he was 14 and she was 10. Montgomery was sentenced to 7½ years in prison.
On Friday, Hampton Circuit Judge Randolph T. West tossed Montgomery’s felony convictions and ordered him released from prison.
But when relatives went to pick Montgomery up at the prison in Jarratt, they learned Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli’s office had declared the order invalid because the judge lacked jurisdiction.
Coast made up the story after being caught, by her parents, looking at internet porn. She tried to explain it away by saying she had been abused and blamed it on Montgomery, who had moved and she thought her parents would never find him.
Montgomery’s attorney says the order is valid and he is asking that the Department of Corrections and the warden be held in contempt. The Attorney General’s office is apparently refusing to budge, despite Montgomery’s absolute innocence. They may have to take the case to the state appeals court. That process could take several months.
Here’s a video from WAVY.com:
It’s unclear why Cuccinelli has made this particular decision with this particular case, but he is no stranger to controversy. While governors like Jan Brewer, Scott Walker and Rick Scott gobble up national headlines with their actions and stances that some might call draconian, Cuccinelli is far less well known (probably because he’s not a governor). However, his position as the chief law enforcer in the 12th largest state in the nation gives him an extraordinary amount of power and an ability to carry out an extreme right-wing agenda.
John Collins of the New York Times reported last year that the Attorney General has used his office to try to personally discredit a climate scientist; a tactic even frowned upon by fellow climate change skeptics.
He was the first Attorney General in the country to challenge the Affordable Care Act, and his lawsuit was quickly struck down. Thanks to his bully tactics, his state has some of the strictest abortion laws in the country.
His stance on immigration is nearly identical to Arizona’s “papers please” law. He ordered Virginia’s public universities not to impose anti-discrimination policies toward sexual orientation. He is an outspoken anti-marriage rights advocate. He is anti-union.
While we can’t be sure at this point whether there’s political or personal motivation in Cuccinelli’s refusal to release Montgomery from prison, it is clear that he’s a very powerful man who is not above inserting his personal views and prejudices in his approach to law enforcement.
For Montgomery, the experience seems to be an exercise in patience, something he seems to have perfected. In an interview with WAVY TV, he expressed anger at neither Coast nor Cuccinelli, just disappointment.