Leonard Mack was exonerated of the 1975 rape of a Westchester teenage girl

A man wrongly convicted of raping a Westchester County teen nearly five decades ago was finally exonerated Tuesday in an emotional hearing that saw him hug the presiding judge.

The Innocence Project marks the longest wrongful conviction in American history overturned by new DNA evidence. Leonard Mack, now a resident of South Carolina, received the gift of relief on his 72nd birthday.

State Supreme Court Justice Anne E. Minihan overturned Mack’s 1976 conviction that saw him serve more than seven years in prison. He was previously found guilty of raping a young girl and attempting to rape another.

But advanced DNA testing proved Mack was not behind the attacks, instead pointing to a sex offender who had recently confessed to the troubling crimes, Westchester prosecutors said.

Mack, a Vietnam War veteran, was originally on the authorities’ radar when two high school students were forced at gunpoint into the woods of the city of Greenburgh on May 23, 1975, prosecutors said.

Mack and Judge Minihan embraced during an emotional hearing.
Leonard Mack and Judge Minihan embraced during an emotional hearing Tuesday.
Elijah Craig II/Innocence Project

The two girls were tied up, blinded and gagged before their attacker twice raped one of them and attempted to sexually assault the other victim, according to prosecutors.

Mack was arrested hours after the crime because he matched the suspect’s description of a black man with an earring and a hat, the prosecutor’s office said.

Despite presenting alibi witnesses in court, a jury found him guilty of first-degree rape and second-degree criminal firearms possession.

Mack was acquitted of his previous rape conviction on Tuesday.
Mack was acquitted of his previous rape conviction on Tuesday.
Elijah Craig II/Innocence Project

Mack, who is now married, tried several times behind bars to contest his conviction in the 1980s, but the attempt was defeated by the Westchester District Attorney’s office and defeated by the courts.

“Today was a long time coming. I lost seven and a half years of my life in prison for a crime I did not commit and I have lived with this injustice hanging over my head for almost 50 years,” Mack said in a press release the Innocence project who contacted the prosecutor’s office in November 2022.

“It has changed the course of my life, from where I live to how I relate to my family. I never lost hope that one day my innocence would be proven. Now the truth has come out and I can finally breathe a sigh of relief. I’m finally free.”

At one point, the South Carolina man wiped away the tears.
At one point, the South Carolina man wiped away the tears.
Elijah Craig II/Innocence Project

Minihan, the judge, told him it was the honor of her career to overturn his conviction. according to The Journal News.

“This is your day. “You’ve waited far too long for this,” she reportedly told him. “There is a lot at stake in what we do and it’s important to get it right.”

According to a photo provided by the Innocence Project, the judge left her seat on the bench to hug him during the emotional hearing.

Other images showed Mack wiping tears from his eyes and raising his hand in court as he exited Government House.

Mack in 1993. He was convicted in 1976.
Mack in 1993. He was convicted in 1976.
innocence project

The man who confessed to the rape was not identified by prosecutors. He could not be charged because the statute of limitations in the old case had expired.

He was previously linked to a rape in Queens in 1975 – just two weeks after the Greenburgh rape – and another 2004 sex crime in the city of Westchester, the prosecutor’s office said.

He is in custody and faces criminal charges for failing to register as a sex offender in connection with the 2004 crime, prosecutors said.


JACLYN DIAZ is a USTimeToday U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. JACLYN DIAZ joined USTimeToday in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing diza@ustimetoday.com.

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