Coast wants to apologize in person to man she wrongly sent to prison

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by Velma Scaife, 13News Now

WVEC.com

Posted on November 18, 2013 at 7:38 PM

Updated Monday, Nov 18 at 7:40 PM

NEWPORT NEWS-Elizabeth Coast made headlines when she admitted she made up a story that sent a young man to prison for four yours.

A year ago in Hampton, Coast recanted her story that Johnathan Montgomery sexually assaulted her.

In an exclusive interview, Coast said she'd like to apologize in person to Montgomery to describe how utterly sorry she is for that lie.

"My heart and my prayers have been for him this whole time. I wish there was more that I could do to help him in this time of his life," she said..

Montgomery was released from prison in November 2012 on a conditional pardon.

Coast, who lives in Newport News, could have been sent to prison for 10 years when she was sentenced in August.   The court gave her five years then suspended all but two months. She's serving that time on weekends. 

"I was afraid she was going to throw the book at me," Coast admitted.  "I kept praying the entire time Lord just help me accept it, just give me the grace to get through it."

The nightmare for Montgomery and Coast began when she was 17 and her parents caught her looking at sexually-explicit Websites.  To explain her behavior, she said Montgomery, who lived across the street from her grandmother, had sexually abused her when she was 10.  

"I don't care who you are, secrets make you sick no matter how well you think you can cope with it. I would encourage anyone who is in my situation to be bold enough and courageous enough to face the truth and come forward and tell the truth. The person who is innocent doesn't deserve for their life to be ruined," she said with conviction.

Coast says some of the inmates she shares a cell with at the Hampton Correctional Facility are appalled at what she did.  

"Some of them got angry at first. Why would you send someone to a place as horrible as this for something they didn't do? But, a lot of times, when they find out I came forward on my own, a lot of them say I'm really proud of you," she stated.

Struggling with her life as a young adult, Coast began keeping a journal. It was important for her to write things down to come to terms with them and see her growth when she goes back later to see what she wrote.

"I would actually like to write a book one day. I would like to be able to articulate what I've gone through and maybe help someone who is in my situation," she said.

In the short term, Coast is looking forward to finishing her sentence in February and finding a job so that she can pay the $90,000 restitution to Montgomery.

As for Montgomery, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli on Tuesday will argue for his innocence in his actual innocence case before the Court of Appeals of Virginia.  Virginia law does not allow courts to free convicted felons on the basis of alleged perjured testimony unless a court first evaluates whether the testimony was actually false.  The conclusion of the perjury proceedings against Coast established both that her recantation is true and her trial testimony was false, Cuccinelli stated.

Coast's perjury conviction is clear and convincing evidence that Montgomery is innocent, Cuccinelli will argue.  

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