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How A Film Producer Helped Exonerate Man Accused Of Raping 'Lovely Bones' Author Alice Sebold
Former executive producer of an adaptation of Alice Sebold's memoir "Lucky", Timothy Mucciante, said he found several discrepancies between the script and Alice Sebold's award-winning memoir.
“Lucky” seemed to have all the trappings of a successful new show. “You” actress Victoria Pedretti was set to star as the bestselling author Alice Sebold in a series aimed for Sundance distinction and a distribution deal, according to the Daily Mail. “13 Reasons Why” director Karen Moncrieff was also attached to the project, based on Sebold’s 1999 memoir of the same name.
But former executive producer Timothy Mucciante, who claims he was unceremoniously fired from production, began investigating the real-life conviction of the man accused of Alice Sebold’s 1981 rape. Now, Mucciante reveals how his role in the investigation led to a wrongfully convicted Black man’s exoneration.
“It was obvious to me that something was off because he had no other criminal history,” Mucciante told NPR. “He basically got picked up off the street and thrown into prison for this.”
Anthony Broadwater served 16 years in state prison for the rape of Alice Sebold when she was an 18-year-old student at Syracuse University, as previously reported. He was released in 1999 after serving his sentence, and formally exonerated last Monday.
“I’m not going to sully this proceeding by saying, ‘I’m sorry,’” said Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick after the ruling. “That doesn’t cut it. This should have never happened.”
According to The Daily Mail, Mucciante became suspicious when he found discrepancies between the script and Sebold’s book.
“The script was very good, but it didn’t track the book as closely as I would have preferred, and that just made me wonder, ‘why is that?’” Mucciante said. “Why do we have to gloss over these facets of the book?”
In her memoir, Sebold, most famous for her book “The Lovely Bones,” detailed the author’s struggle to lead a normal life after the “harrowing, life-changing event,” according to her publishers, Simon & Schuster.
Sebold believed she saw her rapist months after the attack walking down a Syracuse street.
“He was smiling as he approached. He recognized me. It was a stroll in the park to him; he had met an acquaintance on the street,” Sebold wrote in her memoir. “’Hey, girl,’ he said. ‘Don’t I know you from somewhere?’”
Sebold initially failed to pick Broadwater out of a lineup but identified him during the trial, which hinged on an expert witness’s findings over a pubic hair. The expert’s testimony was founded on what’s now considered junk science. According to Mucciante, Sebold exaggerated claims in her book that the hair passed 17/17 tests, but there was no such report in trial records.
“Certainly, I’m not challenging [Alice Sebold’s] story,” Mucciante told Daily Mail. “It’s just the prosecution of the wrong man.”
Mucciante said friction with production began after a Black actor (whose name he could not recall) resigned from his role as Broadwater because he didn’t want to perpetuate the stereotype tied to a Black man accused of raping a woman who is white. The director, Karen Moncrieff, opted to have a white man play the role of Gregory Madison, the pseudonym Sebold chose for Anthony Broadwater, according to Mucciante.
“I pushed back on it, and they pushed back on me pretty hard,” said Mucciante.
Following Mucciante’s departure from production, he began investigating the case when comparing the story to actual police files. He hired a private investigator, Dan Myers.
“The case was originally closed by the Syracuse Police Department because the police reports are… they’re not skeptical, but the description of the assailant is all over the place,” said Mucciante. “They closed the case saying, ‘there’s no way we can get a description of the assailant.’”
Mucciante said that Assistant District Attorney Gail Uebelhoer picked up the case at a time when there was a shift in how New York State approached sexual assault cases.
“There’s no doubting [Sebold’s] story, but how do you catch somebody when you have no idea what that person looks like?” said Mucciante.
Mucciante claimed Sebold wrongfully told audiences that her attacker had a criminal record.
“Anthony had no criminal record, even though Alice says in the book that he does,” he continued. “He’d had zero criminal record and had never been in a lineup in his life. He had just gotten out of the marines.”
He also addressed Sebold’s claims that Broadwater, while incarcerated, hired a hitman to rape her roommate.
“I am not suggesting that that was fabricated, but for the life of me, I cannot figure out how that information would come to her that was completely untrue,” said Mucciante.
According to Daily Mail, the wrongful conviction led Broadwater to live a Spartan life as a registered sex offender. He became a pariah around Syracuse and refused to have children because of the mark against him. Mucciante says that since his release, Broadwater had passed several polygraph tests.
“[Broadwater] wishes [Sebold] would apologize,” said Mucciante. “From a human point of view, that would be nice.”
Mucciante said Broadwater intends to sue Sebold and her publishers.
Meanwhile, private investigator Dan Myers claims he knows the real identity of Sebold’s attacker. Mucciante says he has forwarded Myers’ findings to the Syracuse Police Department.
Sebold and her team have not yet responded to Broadwater’s exoneration.
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story stated that the adaptation of Alice Sebold's memoir "Lucky" was a Netflix project. The streaming service wasn't involved in the film.