Georgia man may be able to clear his name after 20 years in Gwinnett prison

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — A man could be released from prison 20 years after his conviction, after new DNA evidence suggests another person may have committed the violent burglary near Savannah.

Evidence reported on in 2016 suggested someone else may have committed the crime.

Now he’s in court, testifying before a Gwinnett County judge in an effort to clear his name.

Sonny Bharadia has been in jail for 20 years, accused of burglary and sexual assault. He’s maintained his innocence since day one.

The original crime occurred in 2001 in Thunderbolt, Georgia outside Savannah, but Bharadia is serving a life sentence at Philips State Prison in Gwinnett County.

“It’s broken my family,” said Bharadia. “It’s broken me. I just want to go home.”

With the help of the Georgia Innocence Project, he is working to convince a judge to release him, with his freedom on the line.

Bharadia’s attorneys argue he did not break into a woman’s apartment in 2001 and sexually assault her.

They said DNA evidence tested after his conviction proves he didn’t do it.

Police say they found the victim’s belongings with Sterling Flint, an acquaintance of Bharadia’s.

Flint also had a pair of gloves she said her attacker was wearing during the assault.

A jury convicted Bharadia in 2003 relying partly on the victim identifying him in a lineup. Flint also testified against Bharadia in court.

DNA results in 2012 matched Flint and not Bharadia.

“I told the truth,” Bharadia said. “That man stole my car, threatened to kill my family. I did the right thing.”

Bharadia’s defense attorney faced questions over how he handled the case and was asked why the evidence was never used at trial.

“I didn’t have the case that DNA was that important,” Caleb Banks, the attorney, said.

At trial, prosecutors used no physical evidence to convict Bharadia. Instead, they relied on testimony from Flint and the fact the victim had identified Bharadia in a lineup.

She said he was the one who had blindfolded her and attacked her.

“I’ll tell you right now, Sonny Bharadia looks nothing like Sterling Flint, and she picked him out,” Banks told the court during Tuesday’s hearing. “To this day, I don’t know what the hell the jury was thinking. I failed.”

Bharadia’s new legal team argued during the Tuesday proceeding his original defense team didn’t present key evidence to the jury - including DNA. It wrapped up Tuesday evening and the judge in the case will eventually decide if Bharadia will be a free man or finish his life sentence without parole.

“I’ve been stabbed 12 times,” he said. “I’m happy I didn’t get killed or raped in prison. It affects you. Someway there’s gotta be some kind of hope.”

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