RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) Thomas Haynesworths spent 27 years behind bars for crimes he didn’t commit. He talks about whether he thinks his award money is fair, if it is taxable, and where he wants to go from here.
Now he is a free man, soaking up all that life has to offer.
Last week Governor Bob McDonnell signed a claims bill into law, awarding Haynesworth a little more than $1 million dollars for his wrongful convictions.
Haynesworth said he feels thankful towards the Governor. “He granted me parole, now he’s signed this bill.”
“I watched how fast things came about and lawmakers put it at the top of their agenda, so that was a blessing” said Haynesworth.
When asked about his compensation and if he thought it was fair, Haynesworth reflected on a recent trip he took to meet several other exonerates at a special ceremony.
He said he was blown away by their stories. The other men too, had been wrongfully convicted and spent years behind bars. Thomas says he was stunned to learn that many of them have yet to receive any compensation.
“I think every state should have something to reward those who are wrongfully convicted,” said Haynesworth. “I’ve had a lot of good, sound advice from a lot of people and I think it would be hard to battle the state in a lawsuit.”
“So, I think this is guaranteed money and a lot of guys in my position aren’t receiving anything,” he said.
Haynesworth seems excited to put the money into starting his own business, an auto-mechanic shop.
He explained that he doesn’t know if he’d be forced to pay taxes on his compensation. “I wouldn’t think so.
“I think I shouldn’t, but, if I do, that’s just what I’ll have to do,” Haynesworth added.
The Richmond man, who just celebrated the anniversary of his one-year release from prison, on his 47th birthday, says he isn’t looking for the money to bring him happiness.
He explains it would just be a good financial boost he needs to grow his dream of starting the Haynesworth Foundation.
That organization would focus on helping other wrongfully convicted inmates, and newly released inmates hoping to get readjusted to the community.
“They could get their GED, they would get help finding a job,” he said. “It would be good for the inmates who get out and who don’t have the support system like I had.”
Haynesworth, who is employed at the Attorney General’s office, is also receiving 27 years of creditable service in the Virginia Retirement System.
His compensation package would also include tuition up to $10,000 dollars for career and technical training in the Virginia Community College System.
This is a benefit he would have to take advantage of in the next five years.
CBS 6 is still waiting to hear from the Governor’s Office about whether Haynesworth’s money will be tax-free.