Wrongfully Convicted Man To Get $632,000 From Va.

Published August 20, 2009

A Virginia man who spent 22 years in prison for two rapes he did not commit will get more than $632,000 in restitution, following a unanimous decision Wednesday by state lawmakers.

Arthur Whitfield, 54, of Norfolk was convicted in 1982 and sentenced to 63 years in prison. A 2004 DNA test proved his innocence and he was freed.

Whitfield needed paperwork stating his innocence in order to receive state restitution, but the Virginia Supreme Court could not issue such a finding — called a "writ of actual innocence" — because the law at that time allowed that only for those who were incarcerated.

Whitfield's only hope was a pardon from Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, but because one of the rape victims opposed the pardon it took until April for Kaine to grant it.

"When we have a victim who continues to assert that the individual is guilty, we obviously had to take some time and make sure we had that right," Kaine said Wednesday.

Whitfield recently was diagnosed with liver cancer and did not attend Wednesday's special legislative session because he was getting chemotherapy, said his lawyer, Michael Fasanaro Jr.

Whitfield has been working in a produce factory but struggles financially, Fasanaro said.

"I'm delighted that we've finally gotten some commitment from the state to pay him some money," Fasanaro said.

Whitfield will receive $632,867, according to a formula outlined in state law that compensates the wrongfully convicted based on 90 percent of the state per capital income for up to 20 years.

He will get a lump sum of $126,573 within a month, then the remaining $506,294 will be placed into an annuity that he will receive beginning next year.

Whitfield also will receive $10,000 in community college assistance. He would lose any unpaid amount if he is convicted of a felony.

Instead of the usual 25-year annuity prescribed by state law for such cases, legislators set it up so that Whitfield would consult with the attorney general's office and other state agencies to determine the best way for him to receive the money.

Fasanaro said Whitfield had hoped to get all the money at once so he could buy a house. He currently lives in an apartment, and his father drives him to work.

"He's afraid that he's still going to have to work, and he's not going to be able to much longer" because of his health, Fasanaro said.

Legislators said they wanted Whitfield to get the money quickly to help pay for medical and other expenses.

Sen. Kenneth Stolle, R-Virginia Beach, pushed for restitution after learning this summer that Whitfield had not been compensated for his time behind bars.

"I was extremely amazed at the fact that this guy holds no grudges against the community or the victims," Stolle said. "He probably regrets what happened, but he is completely happy with being out of prison and is not asking for anything."

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AP Writer Dena Potter contributed to this report.

Written by Associated Press

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