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Va. man released from prison after being pardoned from 132-year sentence

Messiah Johnson released from prison (Courtesy: CNN Newsource via Johnson family)

NORFOLK, Va. (WSET) -- A Norfolk man, pardoned by former Gov. Terry McAuliffe after being sentenced to 132 years for an armed robbery in 1997 has been released from prison.

Messiah Johnson was granted a conditional pardon in January 2018 after he served more than 20 years, according to WTKR in Norfolk.

The pardon allows him to be released on the conditions that he complete a Department of Corrections re-entry program and enter a three-year period of supervised release.

Johnson maintains his innocence.

He had a well-paying job at the time and a confirmed alibi for the night of the robbery and there was no physical or DNA evidence linking him to the crime.

WTKR reported that his first trial ended in a mistrial.

And during the second trial he denied a plea deal that would have given him three years in prison, but the jury sentenced him to several years on each of the 24 charges.

A few years ago, Johnson's case was taken on by attorneys with the University of Virginia Innocence Project.

Their investigation led to another man already serving time for robberies and who eventually confessed to the crime for which Johnson was convicted.

Gov. McAuliffe granted Johnson a pardon on his last day in office.

Johnson will be out of prison until the appeals process is over.

Afterward, he could be a free man or go back to prison.

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