A Virginia woman will spend a few months behind bars after being sentenced for lying about a sexual assault that led to the conviction of an innocent man.
Elizabeth Paige Coast pled guilty to perjury in May and was sentenced to two months in prison by Hampton, Va., Circuit Judge Bonnie L. Jones. Coast was also ordered to make $90,000 in restitution.
The Washington Post reports that Coast had claimed that Johnathan Montgomery molested her in 2000 when he was 14 and she was 10. Montgomery was convicted and sentenced to seven and a half years in prison.
"This goes to the very heart of our judicial system," the judge said before imposing a five-year sentence and suspending all but two months which Coast will be allowed to serve on weekends, according to the Richmond Times Dispatch.
Coast was charged with perjury after admitting to authorities last year that she made up the story that Montgomery had sexually assaulted her and that she lied on the witness stand at his trial back in 2008.
Coast had said her parents caught her looking at pornography in 2007, so she made up a story of prior sexual abuse to explain her behavior. She said she didn’t think anything would happen to Montgomery because he had moved out of state.
"There are no words that I can say that will erase the damage I've done," a tearful Coast told the judge reading from a written statement. .
The special prosecutor in the case, Hopewell Commonwealth's Attorney Richard K. Newman, asked for a 10-year sentence with six years suspended so Coast would serve the same length of time as Montgomery.
Just prior to sentencing Coast, Jones asked, "What do I do? Is it an eye for an eye, or is there room for compassion?"
Montgomery has been freed from jail on a conditional pardon from Gov. Bob McDonnell. He is seeking a writ of actual innocence, which has been on hold at the Virginia Court of Appeals while Coast’s case was pending.