A Black man who was wrongfully imprisoned for 44 years for raping a white woman in North Carolina has been awarded a $25 million settlement over his incarceration. He was reportedly imprisoned by an all-white jury on October 1, 1976, following the rape charges.
However, the 68-year-old’s sentence was overturned and he was freed in 2020 after his first-degree rape and burglary convictions were vacated by the United States District Court on appeal. He settled his civil lawsuit with the city of Concord, 25 miles northeast of Charlotte, for $22 million on Tuesday after the State Bureau of Investigation had previously settled for $3 million.
Duke Law School’s Wrongful Convictions Clinic, which represented Long, said although no amount of money can compensate for Ronnie’s loss, it is still a big step forward for him.
“It’s, obviously, a celebratory day today knowing that Ronnie’s going to have his means met for the rest of his life with this settlement. It’s been a long road to get to this point, so that’s a great outcome,” clinical professor Jamie Lau, Long’s criminal attorney, said to NBC News.
“Have we found justice in this case? Absolutely not. No amount of money will ever compensate Ronnie for all that he lost, but this is a big step forward for him,” Lau, Long’s criminal attorney, noted in a separate statement.
Meanwhile, the city of Concord issued a rare public apology to Long.
“We are deeply remorseful for the past wrongs that caused tremendous harm to Mr. Long, his family, friends and our community. Mr. Long suffered the extraordinary loss of his freedom and a substantial portion of his life because of this conviction,” the city said. “He wrongly served 44 years, 3 months and 17 days in prison for a crime he did not commit.”
“While there are no measures to fully restore to Mr. Long and his family all that was taken from them, through this agreement we are doing everything in our power to right the past wrongs and take responsibility,” the apology continued. “We are hopeful this can begin the healing process for Mr. Long and our community, and that together we can move forward while learning valuable lessons and ensuring nothing like this ever happens again.”
According to Sonya Pfeiffer, one of Long’s civil attorneys, the apology was a part of Long’s settlement demand. “All of us on Ronnie’s team were very pleased with the responsiveness by the city of Concord. He also got a private apology, a direct apology, which was meaningful, too,” Pfeiffer said.