After 14 long years, Johnny Williams' name has been cleared.
According to NBC News, a judge overturned a rape conviction against Williams on Friday, declaring him innocent of the crime he served over a decade in prison for.
A delighted Williams spoke to the media after his conviction was overturned, saying “I’m truly happy. Everything happens for a reason.”
In 1998, Williams, who had always maintained his innocence, was accused on two counts of forcible lewd conduct against a child and one count of attempted rape.
On September 28, 1998, a man who called himself “Johnny” aggressively approached a 9-year-old girl as she walked home from school. The next day, the same man attempted to rape her. When the girl reported the assault, she told authorities she did not know the attacker. At the time, Williams was a neighbor of the girl and her family. Family and friends of the child suggested that the “Johnny” may have been Johnny Williams.
A week later, Oakland police collected the 9-year-old's clothes from the assault and conducted forensic testing. Results were inconclusive, and no DNA tests were performed. Despite this, on June 8, 2000, Johnny Williams was found guilty of the crime.
While in prison, Williams wrote a letter to the Northern California Innocence Project. He told them he was innocent of the crime, and that he knew DNA testing would confirm this. The Innocence Project agreed to pick up his case. Working with the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, the girl’s clothes were tested for Williams' DNA. There was no match.
"I want to learn from my past experiences," he said after being released. "I'm just happy to be back on the streets. I'm trying my best to get a job and go to school."
According to attorney Maitreya Badami, California law dictates that exonerated prisoners are eligible to receive $100 per day for every day wrongfully spent in prison. In Williams' case, this sum of money could add up to $500,000.