Acquitted Norfolk man speaks out

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) – An accused sex offender is trying to clear his name. William Arney, Sr. was charged with a felony sex crime, but he knew he didn’t do it. All he could do was keep the faith that justice would, in the end, be served.

Where does a man go to clear his good name after a sex crime charge?

He went to court, and then he went to WAVY News’ Andy Fox to shed light on the process that locked him up, disrupted his life, embarrassed him.

“It was crazy. Never in my life did I think this could happen. Everybody’s kids love Billy Arney,” said Arney, who spoke to WAVY News after his victory in court Wednesday.

William R. Arney, Sr. on April 10, 2014. (WAVY/Andy Fox)
William R. Arney, Sr. on April 10, 2014. (WAVY/Andy Fox)

The fact is Arney went to jail. His long journey seeking justice began February 12, when a student at Bayview Elementary School – a student Arney claimed he’d never seen before – accused him of a sex crime. That resulted in a Felony Aggravated Sexual Battery charge.

Norfolk Police arrested Arney. He said he asked police what he had done. “Some girl said I smacked her on the butt or pinched her, I said ‘you got the wrong guy,'” Arney explained.

Arney knew they had the wrong guy, but he could only suffer through it. He had a child in the school, himself.

“It did mess my life up a little bit … I couldn’t go to the school to drop off my daughter. The judge told me I shouldn’t go to the school. I’ve been going to that school every day, taking my own child there. Everybody knows me at the school,” said Arney.

The Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney, realizing the felony wouldn’t stand, reduced it to misdemeanor assault and battery with a recommended sentence of one year in jail.

“I said ‘I am not pleading guilty to nothing because I’ve done nothing wrong … it’s a misdemeanor, but I haven’t done anything wrong,'” said Arney.

For Arney, there was no compromise, and he would clear his name only through a trial.

“I didn’t want them to drop the charge because if they dropped the charge, or dismissed the charge, that still would have put doubt in peoples’ minds. I want the judge to hear the whole story,” added Arney.

In the end, the judge did hear the story and set Arney free.

“The judge heard their story, and heard mine and he asked me, and I told him that I would never in my life do nothing to them. And he said, ‘not guilty.’ And it made me feel good and as soon as it was over, I got up and walked out of the courtroom because I knew I had done nothing wrong,” said Arney.

During his ordeal, Arney asked ‘God, why me?’

“Well, I thought  that several times, but I figured He knew I had strong shoulders, and he was just putting me through a test,” Arney told WAVY News’ Andy Fox.

Before February 12, Arney would take his own child to school every day. Thursday was the first day he returned to the school.

“Yes, I dropped my child off at the school. It felt good, but I am learning this lesson … anyone can say anything,” he said.

Amanda Howie with the Office of the Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney sent WAVY News this statement:

Once our Office received the case file from investigators, we reviewed the evidence and the law and met with the involved parties. We concluded the evidence supported a misdemeanor charge of Assault and Battery, so we amended the warrant of Aggravated Sexual Battery, a felony, to Assault and Battery, a misdemeanor, and went forward with trial on that charge yesterday. The Court didn’t find the evidence was beyond a reasonable doubt and dismissed the Assault and Battery charge.

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