Kinston man freed from jail harbors no resentment
Posted March 3, 2016 5:57 p.m. EST
Kinston, N.C. — A Kinston man whose conviction for molesting his daughter was thrown out Wednesday after more than two decades was enjoying his first day as a free man Thursday afternoon.
In a new sweatshirt, new jeans and new sunglasses, Howard Dudley was seeing the world through a new lens.
“All this is new,” he said. “Wow it feels great. No shackles.”
Dudley had Bojangles’ chicken for his first meal after spending 23 years eating prison grub. He said he survived in jail each day by waking up at about 4 a.m. to pray and read his bible.
Dudley was convicted of sexually assaulting his then 9-year-old daughter in 1992 and the only evidence was her word against his. He has spent the past 24 years telling everybody he was innocent.
“The only thing I had to fight with was truth, and truth has prevailed,” Dudley said. “That’s the only thing that I had to hold on to. Everybody else lies, failed, but I haven’t waivered one bit. I’m still holding to truth.”
In a hearing this week, Dudley’s daughter, Amy Moore now 33, told a judge her allegations were fictitious. Mental health experts testified that Moore suffers from mental illness and was easily led to make false statements.
Judge Douglas Parsons said the system failed Dudley before setting him free Wednesday. Prosecutors never presented any physical evidence of an assault during Dudley’s 1992 trial and Parsons ruled that Dudley was denied a fair trial because his defense attorney was ineffective.
Dudley said he has not yet spoken to his daughter, but plans to call her to speak about forgiving herself. He said that he never blamed his daughter for the allegations, because he said she was being used by others.
“I love [my daughter]. I’ll say ‘I love you, Amy and I forgive you’,” said Dudley of what he will say to his daughter. “I’m going to be slow about this, but I want to give her a hug.”
Dudley could have avoided prison if he had pleaded guilty in 1992, but then he said he would have been imprisoned by another lie. He said he does not regret the more than two decades he spent behind bars.
“Everything that looked like freedom is not necessarily freedom,” he said. “For 24 years I could live with myself. I could look in the mirror, I could function and I did function because I had peace within.”
Dudley said he harbors no resentment as he embraces his return to freedom. He said he plans to serve God during the remainder of his time as a free man.
“I’m surrounded by godly people who love and support me,” he said. “I’m going to live a normal life.”