N.C. Gov. Frees Man After Recant

January 7, 2001

GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) - A man sentenced to life in prison for sexually abusing his daughter, a claim she later recanted, is expected to be released this week after spending 14 years behind bars. 

Former Gov. Jim Hunt commuted the sentence of Joe Kennedy, whose daughter recanted her story of sexual abuse two years ago. 

Attorney Don Vaughan, who asked Hunt to review the case, was notified Saturday - the day Mike Easley was sworn in as North Carolina's new governor - that the commutation had been granted. 

Hunt released no statement explaining why he commuted the sentence. 

Kennedy, 62, could be released as early as Tuesday afternoon, the News & Record of Greensboro reported Sunday. 

Kennedy was convicted in 1986 of four counts of first-degree sexual offense and ordered to serve two life sentences. The state Supreme Court upheld his conviction in 1987. 

His daughter, Vickie Lynn Kennedy, 33, testified that her father had molested her since she was 13. She also said he cut her on the back and legs with a kitchen knife, and that her mother witnessed assaults on her. 

The state's chief medical examiner testified that Vickie Kennedy could not have cut herself as she described, but an exam found no physical evidence that she had been sexually abused. 

Two years ago she recanted the story, saying she had lied to escape her strict, religious upbringing. 

Last June, a judge denied a defense request for a new trial after prosecutors argued that evidence from the trial backed up Vickie Kennedy's original testimony. 

District Attorney Jim Kimel said psychiatric testimony from the 1986 trial showed Vickie Kennedy's behavior was consistent with patterns shown by abused girls. 

Joe Kennedy couldn't be reached for comment Saturday, but he has said that he forgives his daughter. 




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