HICKORY, N.C. (WBTV) – A North Carolina man who served 24 years in prison for a rape he didn’t commit has been awarded $3.25 million in a settlement with the city of Hickory.
In a special meeting held Wednesday, Hickory City Council voted unanimously to approve a settlement agreement with Willie Grimes in the amount of $3,250,000.
Grimes was convicted in 1988 of raping a 69-year-old Hickory woman and sentenced to life plus nine years.
After serving 24 years of his sentence, Grimes was released in 2012 while still maintaining his innocence.
His claim of innocence was investigated by the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, which found finger prints from the case did not match Grimes’ prints.
That same year, the commission decided enough credible evidence of innocence existed to refer Grimes’ case to a three-judge panel, which then exonerated him.
In 2014, Grimes filed a lawsuit against the City of Hickory, former Chief of Police Floyd Lucas, former police officers Steve Hunt and Steve Bryant, and Chief Tom Adkins, who was currently serving as Chief of Police when the lawsuit was filed.
The case was mediated and a settlement was reached. The city will pay $2,250,650, while the city’s insurance carrier, National Casualty, will be responsible for $999,350.
Hickory mayor Rudy Wright spoke about the settlement in an interview Wednesday night.
“Any time you spend $2 million from a fund balance of a city our size, it does have an impact,” said Wright.
The mayor said that the settlement will impact future budgeting, but won’t be a burden on the taxpayers.
“We’re not going to raise taxes for it. It’s not going to cause us to reduce any of our everyday services,” said Wright.
He said that the money spent on the settlement could be used for other purposes.
“There will be projects down the road that will either not be done or postponed,” said Wright.
He said he wasn’t familiar with Grimes’ case until he became the mayor of Hickory. He said he regrets the fact that the judicial system isn’t perfect.
“Our system doesn’t guarantee that every decision reached will be the correct decision, but its supposed to guarantee a fair trial,” said Wright.
Grimes’ attorney in the civil suit, Burton Craige, declined to comment for this story Wednesday evening.
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