|Elizabeth Paige Coast|
By FRANK GREEN
HAMPTON - A Hampton woman who invented a sexual assault that sent an innocent man to prison is set to be sentenced today, clearing the way for the Virginia Court of Appeals to consider clearing his name.
Elizabeth Paige Coast, 23, falsely accused [name withheld] of sexually assaulting her in 2000 when she was 10 years old. She pleaded guilty in May to perjury and faces up to 10 years in prison when sentenced in Hampton Circuit Court this afternoon.
However, the special prosecutor in the case, Richard K. Newman, the Hopewell commonwealth's attorney, said at the time Coast pleaded guilty it appeared state sentencing guidelines would not call for any prison time.
Coast was charged with perjury last year after admitting to authorities that she made up the story that [name withheld] had sexually assaulted her when he lived in Hampton and that she lied on the witness stand at his June 23, 2008, trial.
[name withheld], 14 at the time of the alleged assault and 26 now, has asked the Virginia Court of Appeals for a writ of actual innocence.
A conviction supports the contention her trial testimony was a lie and her recantation the truth. The Virginia Attorney General's Office and [name withheld]'s lawyers asked the court of appeals to delay considering the petition until the perjury charge was resolved.
[name withheld] was released from prison on a conditional pardon from Gov. Bob McDonnell pending the outcome of his petition for a writ of actual innocence.
Coast told authorities she made up the story because said she felt trapped when her parents caught her searching the Internet for sex stories. She said she believed her parents would not be angry with her if she said the reason she looked things up was because she had been molested.
The lies got out of control and in 2008, [name withheld], a childhood acquaintance of Coast's who moved from Hampton shortly after the crime supposedly occurred, was convicted of sexually assaulting her. Coast was 18 at the time she testified at [name withheld]'s trial.
[name withheld] was living in Florida and had no criminal record when he was charged. He testified in his own defense and denied assaulting her. It was a matter of her word against his, and the judge found him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
- This shows that if anyone ever accuses you of a sex crime, your life is over! No evidence is needed, just one persons word.
[name withheld]'s family declined to comment on today's pending sentencing.