NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — William Arnold spent seven years in prison before the Court of Appeals overturned his conviction because he'd been wrongly convicted. A judge then threw out the charges after the district attorney's office determined it no longer believed he had committed a crime.
Now Arnold wants to be compensated by the state and he wants to make sure that no one else has to go through what he has.
"I’m a new man in a totally new world," Arnold told NewsChannel 5 Investigates.
He is still trying to get used to life after prison.
He spent nearly seven years locked up after being convicted of abusing a young boy he'd been mentoring. He always maintained he was innocent.
And last year, his case was overturned by the Tennessee Court of Appeals after the court found he'd been wrongly convicted.
Now Arnold wants to be made whole again.
"You have to be exonerated by the governor in order to receive any compensation for wrongful conviction. So in an effort to be made whole and to receive compensation from the state of Tennessee for the time I served, I have to go through this process," Arnold explained.
A 1,000-page application he's submitted to the Tennessee Board of Parole is the first step in that process. The board has to recommend exoneration before it can go to the governor.
Very few people in Tennessee are ever exonerated and even fewer receive any sort of compensation.
But Arnold remains hopeful.
"It will mean that this is essentially behind me, that the state of Tennessee though it harmed me, has now officially taken its responsibility for what happened. And it’s corrected. And that’s really important because I can imagine a number of men and women who have had this happen in their lives and weren’t even able to get to this process," he said.
Attorney John Perry is representing Arnold in this process.
"I think the system made a huge error in this instance," Perry said of Arnold's prosecution and conviction.
Perry added that if anyone should be compensated, it's Arnold.
"It is one of the grossest miscarriages of justice that I have ever seen," Perry said.
Arnold was sentenced to 25 years behind bars after the young boy he'd been mentoring told his mother he'd had a sexual relationship with "William." The mother told police it was Arnold. But it turned out, there was another William in the boy's life, a teenager and family friend who later admitted to the relationship.
Arnold says he was the victim of a twisted case of "mistaken identity."
"I want people to understand always that this can happen to anyone," he told NewsChannel 5 Investigates.
Arnold has also now filed formal complaints with the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility, the state board that disciplines lawyers, against the two former assistant district attorneys who prosecuted his case, Allegra Walker and Sharon Reddick.
The Court of Appeals in its ruling called the district attorney's closing arguments "exceedingly improper" and "comments and behavior" during the trial... "overwhelmingly inflammatory."
"What do you want out of this?" NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked Arnold.
"I want it to be known that going forward District Attorneys have to be accountable, whatever example is made by them. I don’t want anyone else to have to go through what I went through," he replied.
Right after Arnold was accused, the young man and his mother sued Arnold as well as the Big Brother Big Sisters organization which ran the mentoring program. That case still has not been resolved, even though the criminal case has been dropped against Arnold. The boy's mother still insists Arnold did it. Arnold's attorney though says he does not believe this should have any impact on his efforts to be exonerated.