Concord man wrongly convicted, released from prison seeks pardon from Cooper

CONCORD, N.C. — Ronnie Long thought his battles were behind him when he was released from prison in August, after 44 years behind bars. But now, he said he’s fighting for a pardon from Gov. Roy Cooper.

“I feel as though I’ve been cheated,” Long said. “I feel as though I’ve been cheated out of life, itself.”

Long, of Concord, went to prison in 1976 convicted of a rape he said he did not commit. He spent the following decades fighting for his release, which ended in August when the state vacated his conviction and dropped all the charges.

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Long’s attorney, Jamie Lau, told Channel 9 that without the pardon, Long is ineligible for compensation from the state for the time Long spent in prison. He qualifies for an amount up to $750,000.

“I’m not asking for much,” Long said. “The only thing I’m asking for is what’s due to me, and I’d like to live the remaining days I have on this earth, at least comfortable.”

Long said he’s now looking for employment.

Long said he’s thankful for all the people fighting for the pardon on his behalf. A Change.org petition quickly filled up with more than 50,000 signatures of people urging Cooper to grant the pardon. Long said one group of supporters is petitioning for the pardon outside the governor’s mansion and plans to every day until the end of 2020.

Lau said Cooper will be the first governor in more than 40 years to not grant a single person clemency during a term if he does not act before Dec. 31.

Statement from Governor’s Office:

“Decisions on pardons in criminal cases are among the most serious issues a governor can consider, and the clemency office and attorneys carefully review such requests. The governor expects to share an update on pardon requests in coming weeks.”