HAMPTON, Va. —
A Hampton woman who fabricated a sexual assault that led to the conviction of an innocent man pleaded guilty Tuesday to perjury.
Elizabeth Coast entered her plea in Hampton Circuit Court. She faces up to 10 years in prison when sentenced on July 22, media outlets reported.
Coast had claimed that Johnathan Montgomery molested her in 2000 outside a home in Hampton when he was 14 and she was 10. Montgomery denied the allegations, but in 2008 a judge convicted him of aggravated sexual battery and other charges based solely on his accuser’s story. He was sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison.
Coast recanted her story last year and was charged with perjury. A circuit court judge exonerated Montgomery last November and ordered him freed. He was released after Gov. Bob McDonnell issued a conditional pardon.
Despite the pardon, Montgomery will not be fully exonerated unless the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals grants his petition for a writ of actual innocence. The court agreed last December to let Montgomery’s petition move ahead. But Montgomery’s lawyers and the Virginia Attorney General’s office asked the court to delay considering the petition until after the perjury charge against Coast was settled.
“No party is prejudiced by allowing the criminal justice process to sort out the facts relating to Coast’s prosecution for perjury, and those facts are central to the issues this Court will rule on in connection with Montgomery’s petition,” Montgomery’s lawyers wrote.
Prosecutors say Coast told investigators that her parents caught her looking at pornographic websites in 2007 when she was 17, so she concocted a story of prior sexual abuse to explain her behavior. In 2000, Montgomery lived across the street from Coast’s grandmother in Hampton. The two had previously played together.
When she devised the assault story, she didn’t think anything would happen to Montgomery because he had moved with his father and stepmother to North Carolina in 2004, prosecutors said.