HICKORY, NC (WBTV) - The day after the Hickory City Council approved a $3.25 million settlement with a man wrongfully convicted of rape, Mayor Rudy Wright said it was fair because "he was innocent."
Willie Grimes was convicted in 1988 of rape and sentenced to life plus nine years in prison. Twenty-four years later, after a three judge panel heard evidence of alleged mistakes by investigators, Grimes was declared not guilty of the crime.
He later sued the investigators and the city of the Hickory.
Wednesday, the city council agreed to settle the case for all the defendants.
"Mr. Grimes is glad to have this matter behind him," said his attorney Burton Craige and added, about the money, "It does not erase what happened, I'm sure there's no amount of money that's enough."
Wright says as part of the settlement the city does not admit any wrong doing.
He says citizens will not see a tax increase as a result of the settlement, "but it does eat into the rainy day fund." Some future projects may have to be delayed, he says, but none are critical projects.
Work to fix the Hickory sinkhole and most other projects will go on as scheduled, he says.
People in town who heard of the settlement said they were okay with it.
"You can't take the time they took from him and give it back so it's a blessing the city can so anything for him," said Rosa Craig.
Wright says he hopes Grimes can find some peace now.
"I would be very glad to sit down with him over a cup of coffee or something and tell him how much I regret his incarceration."