Alice Sebold Biopic on Author's Rape Potentially Helped Overturn 1981 Conviction

After the rape conviction of a Syracuse, New York man was overturned, the film adaptation of his accuser's memoir is now in question.

Anthony Broadwater spent 16 years in prison after author Alice Sebold accused him of raping her while she was a freshman student at Syracuse University. She would go on to write Lucky, a 1999 memoir that detailed the attack and her subsequent proceedings. However, Broadwater's conviction was overturned on Monday, a decision that might have been spurred by a former producer on the film.

Lucky's adaptation, which had cast The Haunting of Hill House actress Victoria Pedretti as Sebold in June 2021, had a former producing partner in Tim Mucciante. According to the Associated Press, Mucciante became skeptical of Broadwater's conviction after reading the film's first draft, which differed heavily from the original memoir.

After dropping out of the project, he hired a private investigator to work on the case. Lawyers for Broadwater, who worked with Mucciante and his investigator, criticized the use of hair analysis as the sole type of forensic evidence in the case, calling it "junk science."

Sebold had initially gone to the police after encountering Broadwater, who she was sure was her attacker. However, she had failed to identify him in a police lineup after he was apprehended.

"I've been crying tears of joy and relief the last couple of days," Broadwater told the Associated Press. "I'm so elated, the cold can't even keep me cold."

The future of Lucky, which had begun filming, is unclear with Broadwater's exoneration. Jonathan Bronfman, its new executive producer has not responded to requests for comment. Sebold's literary agent and publisher have also not commented on the matter, although she had written in Lucky that she had been told she accused the wrong man.

For more reporting from The Associated Press, see below:

Anthony Broadwater
Anthony Broadwater, who spent 16 years in prison, was cleared Monday by a judge of raping Sebold when she was a student at Syracuse University, an assault she wrote about in her 1999 memoir, "Lucky." Broadwater, center, gazes upward, on November 22, in Syracuse, New York, after Judge Gordon Cuffy overturned the 40-year-old rape conviction that wrongfully put him in state prison for Alice Sebold's rape.

Broadwater shook with emotion, sobbing as his head fell into his hands, as the judge in Syracuse vacated his conviction at the request of prosecutors.

Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick told state Supreme Court Justice Gordon Cuffy at the court hearing that Broadwater's prosecution was an injustice, The Post-Standard of Syracuse reported.

"I'm not going to sully this proceeding by saying, 'I'm sorry.' That doesn't cut it," Fitzpatrick said. "This should never have happened."

"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," wrote Sebold, who is white. "'Hey, girl,' he said. 'Don't I know you from somewhere?'"

She said she didn't respond: "I looked directly at him. Knew his face had been the face over me in the tunnel."

Broadwater remained on New York's sex offender registry after finishing his prison term in 1999.

Broadwater, who has worked as a trash hauler and a handyman in the years since his release from prison, told the AP that the rape conviction blighted his job prospects and his relationships with friends and family members.

Even after he married a woman who believed in his innocence, Broadwater never wanted to have children.

"We had a big argument sometimes about kids, and I told her I could never, ever allow kids to come into this world with a stigma on my back," he said.

In addition to Lucky, Sebold is the author of the novels The Lovely Bones and The Almost Moon.

The Lovely Bones, about the rape and murder of a teenage girl, won the American Booksellers Association Book of the Year Award for Adult Fiction in 2003 and was made into a movie starring Saoirse Ronan, Susan Sarandon and Stanley Tucci.

Broadwater's lawyers David Hammond and Melisa Swartz of the Syracuse-based firm CDH Law credited Fitzpatrick for taking a personal interest in the case and understanding that scientific advances have cast doubt on the use of hair analysis.

She wrote that she realized the defense would be that: "A panicked white girl saw a black man on the street. He spoke familiarly to her and in her mind she connected this to her rape. She was accusing the wrong man."

Alice Sebold at Emerson
The film adaptation of author Alice Sebold's "Lucky" is now in question after Anthony Broadwater had his rape conviction overturned. Sebold receives an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degree and delivers the Commencement Address to graduating students at the 2016 Emerson College Commencement Exercises at Agganis Arena at Boston University on May 8, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. Photo by Paul Marotta/Getty Images