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Ronnie Long Granted Pardon, Now Eligible For $750K In Compensation

Ronnie Long (left) walks out of prison in August 2020.
Ronnie Long (left) walks out of prison in August 2020.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has granted a pardon to Ronnie Long, reaffirming Long's innocence and making him eligible for up to $750,000 in restitution for the decades he spent in prison for a rape he did not commit.

The pardon was issued Thursday in the first series of pardons to come from the governor's office since Cooper took office in 2017.

"Today is a day for celebration. We're elated for Ronnie," said Long's attorney, Jamie Lau. "When I broke the news to him that he was receiving a pardon today, he was elated and ran through the parking lot from the video that I received from his wife."

The pardon means Long is now qualified to receive compensation under a state law allowing people who are wrongfully incarcerated to receive $50,000 per year spent in prison up to $750,000.

Because Long was incarcerated for 44 years, he would be eligible for the full amount.

"The eligibility for compensation will provide him with an opportunity to have some means of security moving forward," Lau said. "Now he'll have a sum of money that he can use to provide for his basic needs, and that's a great thing that the governor did today."

Lau says he plans to quickly file a petition with the North Carolina Industrial Commission, which will award the compensation.

Long wasreleased from prison in August after a judge vacated his conviction, finding his constitutional rights were violated when an all-white jury convicted him in 1976 of raping a prominent white woman in Concord.

Since his release, Long has moved in with his wife, AshLeigh Long, in Durham, North Carolina, and has been surviving almost entirely off donations, according to Lau. He's been working on obtaining his driver's license and has struggled to find employment.

A GoFundMe started by Long's wife just before his release from prison had raised $50,813 as of Thursday afternoon.

Also included in Cooper'sannouncement Thursday were pardons for Teddy Lamont Isbell, Sr, Kenneth Manzi Kagonyera, Damian Miguel Mills, and Larry Jerome Williams, Jr.

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Nick de la Canal is the host of Weekend Edition on Saturday/Sunday mornings, and a reporter covering breaking news, arts and culture, and general assignment stories. His work frequently appears on air and online. Periodically, he tweets: @nickdelacanal