The Lake County State’s Attorney in Illinois has agreed to review whether William Woodard is innocent of a sexual assault he pleaded guilty to as part of a deal with prosecutors in 2003, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The Tribune reported that former Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Waller’s Office presented a plea deal to Woodard even though Assistant State’s Attorney Michael Mermel openly acknowledged in court that he did not know whether “the defendant is guilty of the crime or whether he’s innocent.”
Woodard always maintained his innocence and told the Tribune that he agreed to plead guilty after prosecutors told him that he could walk free on probation, and after his attorney reportedly inaccurately told him that he would not have to be listed on the Illinois Sex Offender Registry. After spending 14 months in jail on charges of aggravated criminal sexual abuse in 2003, Woodard pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of unlawful restraint.
Woodard is seeking to be officially cleared of the crime because of the immense difficulties to employment, housing and humiliation that registration as a sex offender carries.
Current Lake County State’s Attorney Mike Nerheim’s office is reviewing Woodard’s case and many others as part of a reform agenda that he promised to deliver, while running for the office in 2012.
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