Alice Sebold apologizes to man wrongfully convicted for her rape: 'I will forever be sorry'
Author Alice Sebold has apologized to Anthony Broadwater, the man who was convicted of the rape at the center of her memoir Lucky in 1982, and who was exonerated of the crime last week.
Broadwater served 16 years in prison after he was found guilty of raping Sebold when she was a student at Syracuse University, which she chronicled in the 1999 memoir. A New York State Supreme Court justice overturned the conviction on Nov. 22 after finding serious flaws in Broadwater's arrest and trial, according to the Associated Press.
In a lengthy statement posted to Medium on Tuesday, Sebold wrote, "First, I want to say that I am truly sorry to Anthony Broadwater and I deeply regret what you have been through. 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. Of the many things I wish for you, I hope most of all that you and your family will be granted the time and privacy to heal."
In a statement issued through his attorneys, Broadwater said, "I'm relieved that she has apologized. 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."
Lucky publisher Scribner also announced Tuesday that it will halt distribution of the book for the time being. In a statement provided to EW, the imprint said, "Following the recent exoneration of Anthony Broadwater, and in consultation with the author, Scribner and [its parent] Simon & Schuster will cease distribution of all formats of Alice Sebold's 1999 memoir Lucky while Sebold and Scribner together consider how the work might be revised."
In Lucky, Sebold — also the award-winning author of The Lovely Bones — wrote that she spotted a Black man in the street months after the rape who she was sure was her attacker and went to the police, but didn't know his name. Broadwater, whom Sebold identified under the pseudonym of Gregory Madison in her book, had been seen in the area at the time and was placed in a police lineup, but the author identified a different man as her attacker.
Despite this, Broadwater was ultimately put on trial for the rape, and convicted largely on the basis of microscopic hair analysis, a method that has since been discredited by the U.S. Department of Justice.
In her statement Tuesday, Sebold addressed what she deemed the systemic biases in the American criminal justice system that led to Broadwater's conviction, as well as her role in that system.
"I am grateful that Mr. Broadwater has finally been vindicated, but the fact remains that 40 years ago, he became another young Black man brutalized by our flawed legal system. I will forever be sorry for what was done to him," she wrote, adding, "I will continue to struggle with the role that I unwittingly played within a system that sent an innocent man to jail. I will also grapple with the fact that my rapist will, in all likelihood, never be known, may have gone on to rape other women, and certainly will never serve the time in prison that Mr. Broadwater did."
Sebold concluded, "I will remain sorry for the rest of my life that while pursuing justice through the legal system, my own misfortune resulted in Mr. Broadwater's unfair conviction for which he has served not only 16 years behind bars but in ways that further serve to wound and stigmatize, nearly a full life sentence."
In the wake of Broadwater's exoneration last week, Variety reported that a planned film adaptation of Lucky, which had been set to star You's Victoria Pedretti, has been abandoned after losing its financing months ago. The film's former executive producer, Timothy Mucciante, departed the production in June due to "skepticism about the case and how it was being portrayed," according to The New York Times, and hired a private investigator to look into the evidence against Broadwater, which ultimately helped lead to his exoneration.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to rainn.org.