RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia is set to pay over $1.5 million in compensation to a man who served over 20 years in prison for child sexual abuse — a crime that the state now agrees he never committed.
Michael Haas was accused of sexual abuse by his sons, who were then children, and convicted in 1994. But both of his sons later recanted their testimony, with evidence suggesting that their stories were influenced by the prodding of a sexual abuse counselor.
Haas was released from prison in 2017, but he was not granted a writ of actual innocence — a court order admitting that his conviction was incorrect — until 2022, after he gained the support of current Attorney General Jason Miyares and former Attorney General Mark Herring.
“I spent over 23 years in prison for a crime that never happened,” Haas said at a House committee hearing in February. “From the very first accusations and all throughout my case I proclaimed my innocence.”
With the passage of SB 928 and HB 1463, Haas will be paid $1,530,653 and will also receive free tuition within the Virginia Community College system.
Del. Terry Austin (R-Covington) listened to Haas’s testimony during consideration of the bill, and after hearing his story, offered a personal message for him.
“Mr. Haas we apologize, and we know this had to be traumatic and difficult for your life, and I just want to personally tell you, the Commonwealth’s sorry,” he said.