How a Film Producer Uncovered the Truth About an Innocent Man Convicted of Raping 'Lovely Bones' Author

Anthony Broadwater spent 16 years in prison for a crime someone else committed

Anthony Broadwater
A relieved Anthony Broadwater, with his wife and attorney, addressing the press after his exoneration. Photo: Katrina Tulloch|

In 1981, Anthony Broadwater had his life stolen from him just as it was beginning.

The 20-year-old Marine was accused of raping an 18-year-old college student. Despite the fact that the rape victim identified a different man as her attacker during a police lineup assembled six months after the crime, Broadwater was brought to trial.

During Broadwater's trial, the victim, Alice Sebold, took the witness stand and pointed at Broadwater when asked if her attacker was present. Broadwater, now 61, was convicted of a crime someone else committed, and a judge sentenced him to 8⅓ to 25 years behind bars.

Sebold, who at the time she was raped was a freshman at Syracuse University, went on to write the acclaimed book The Lovely Bones, as well as a 1999 memoir, Lucky, about the attack. Broadwater served 16 years in prison, after which he was added to New York's sex offender registry.

For years, Broadwater maintained his innocence — unsuccessfully appealing his conviction four times in his unrelenting mission to clear his name. For years, the handyman worked only odd jobs here and there, with his rape conviction narrowing his job prospects. For years, he'd attend family gatherings, but leave after only a few minutes — uncomfortable from getting the cold shoulder.

"I don't have a lot of pictures of my family members, you know?," explains Broadwater, speaking to PEOPLE on Dec. 3. "I mean, I've got pictures of the family, but I don't have pictures of me with them."

Days before this past Thanksgiving, Broadwater sobbed in court as a prosecutor apologized to him for the mistakes of his predecessors, and a judge — approving his fifth and final appeal — pardoned him, finally clearing his name after 40 years.

"It's still trying to sink in," Broadwater — now the subject of a forthcoming full-length documentary — tells PEOPLE. "I could never give up. I mean, I could never give up. My dad always told me, he said, 'If you never did it, you don't ever give up. You don't admit to nothing.' I just wished my dad was here to really see it."

For more on Anthony Broadwater's exoneration, Alice Sebold's apology, and the filmmaker who helped right a wrong, subscribe now to PEOPLE, or pick up this week's issue, on newsstands Friday.

Anthony Broadwater
Anthony Broadwater's life was forever changed when he was accused of a crime he did not commit. N. Scott Trimble/Post-Standard/

Since his exoneration, Sebold has apologized to Broadwater, and his supporters — including the three longtime filmmakers who're now chronicling the case and the toll its taken on his life — have launched a GoFundMe campaign, with all donations going directly to him and his wife.

Seeing Red Flags

In January 2021, Timothy Mucciante signed on to executive produce the film adaptation of Sebold's memoir, which recounts her rape by a Black man whom she later misidentified as Broadwater. What he learned about Broadwater's conviction shocked him.

"It's the modern-day Emmett Till," says Mucciante, 62. "The white woman said, 'He's the black man who raped me.' And without almost no procedural due process, he was sent to prison. His life was taken from him."

Mucciante tells PEOPLE he wasn't far into reading Sebold's Lucky — no longer available in stores or online — when he began to doubt Broadwater's guilt. The red flags really popped up when he reached the lineup scene. "Anybody who watches Law & Order or anything like that knows that if a person cannot identify their assailant at the lineup, that's the end of the case as it relates to that assailant," Mucciante, a former attorney, says. "They don't just say, 'Well, you weren't identified, so we're going to try you anyway.' It's incongruous."

His suspicions raised, Mucciante left the Lucky film project, and retained private investigators, using his own money, to prove Broadwater wasn't the rapist. "Imagine yourself walking down the street and you see an injured person laying on the grass," Mucciante starts, when asked about his altruism. "Do you walk pass them? No, of course not. I mean, you have to render aid or call 911 or do something. This is no different."

Anthony Broadwater and Scott Rosenbaum
Anthony Broadwater, subject of the forthcoming documentary Unlucky, with director Scott Rosenbaum. Timothy Mucciante

Today, Mucciante and Broadwater are friends — and these days, they've been seeing a lot of each other as Unlucky, Mucciante's project about Broadwater's wrongful conviction, films in Syracuse. Mucciante reached out to director and writer Scott Rosenbaum, 52, and producer Anthony Grazia, 57, in July about Unlucky, and both signed on after he convinced them of Broadwater's innocence.

"There's two victims" in this story, Grazia tells PEOPLE. "There's this woman who had this tragic thing happen to her, but his life was changed, too, and his whole life has been ruined for the last 40-some odd years. It's insane ... He's just an incredible human being. He's so forgiving and just happy to be just exonerated."

Says Rosenbaum of Mucciante: "His whole trajectory — from him being the executive producer of the narrative feature, Lucky, to then seeing red flags, and having doubts — for us, it was like, it's just so unusual. What producer is going to act against his own self interest and pursue a path that couldn't be pursued? I think it's probably unheard of."

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Broadwater says he has started the next chapter of his life, now that he's free from the weight of the conviction that haunted him for decades.

While he's accepted Sebold's apology, ("If it's sincere, and from her heart, I can accept it," he says), he has never read her memoir.

"I can't read that book," Broadwater tells PEOPLE. "I never could read it. I never wanted to cloud my mind about whatever she was saying about whoever she thought had done this to her ... It wasn't me."

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