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A Screenplay For Alice Sebold’s Memoir About Her Sexual Assault Just Unravelled A 40-Year-Old Case

The memoir was just about to be made into a film.

Trigger Warning: this article deals with sexual assault and may be triggering to some readers.

Alice Sebold was raped in the early hours of May 8, 1981. A man was convicted and spent 16 years in prison. In 2021, his conviction was overturned. 

The timeline made the world do a double-take—Sebold, famous for writing The Lovely Bones, also wrote an entire memoir, named Lucky, about the experience. The powerful recount of her trauma was hugely successful and was due to be made into a film. 

Going into pre-production, the film’s executive producer Tim Mucciante studied the memoir to great depths. He found some inconsistencies, which led him to hire a private investigator.

And that’s where it all came undone. 

After spending 16 years in prison and more than two decades dealing with the fallout from incarceration, Anthony J. Broadwater is now a free man. Here, we look at the intertwined story of Sebold and Broadwater. 

(Credit: Getty)

On May 8, 1981, Sebold, an 18-year-old first year university student, reported that she was walking home via a tunnel near her college when she was stopped by a black man with a knife. 

The man raped and beat her, she later reported to the police. At the time, the police told her that another woman had been murdered in that exact place—they told her she was “lucky”.

Fast forward to a few months later, Sebold began her second year of University. There, she saw a man who she believed was the one who raped her in June 1981. 

The man reportedly approached her and asked if he knew her from somewhere. Terrified, Sebold immediately alerted the authorities to the encounter, but they were unable to locate him. 

Around the same time, 20-year-old Anthony J Broadwater was identified as a suspect. When he was put in a lineup, Sebold didn’t identify him as her attacker. She instead picked a different man because of an “expression in his eyes”. She later claimed that she had changed her mind moments after she’d picked out the man in the lineup. 

Per the Associated Press, Broadwater was still put to trial—it was there that Sebold identified him as her attacker.  

At trial, a hair analysis also tied him to the crime (this was later discredited). The evidence was enough to find him guilty, and he spent the next 16 years in prison. 

In 1999, Sebold released a memoir named Lucky, based on the experience. It sold over 1 million copies and kick-started her career as a renowned author. She later wrote The Lovely Bones which was also adapted into an Oscar-winning film. 

Broadwater led a very different life. He was released from prison in 1999, but remained on the US sex offenders registry. Now in his sixties, Broadwater has spent the last 22 years struggling to find work due to the alleged crimes.

Despite marrying, he also never had kids, and according to Vulture, he found it difficult to maintain relationships with friends and family. 

Then came Timothy Muccianti, an executive producer who was was signed onto the Netflix production of Lucky.

He commenced pre-production of the sure-to-be hit film—according to Variety, actor Victoria Pedretti was even cast in a lead role. 

But Muccianti discovered some inconsistencies between the adapted screenplay of the memoir and the real life trial of Broadwater. 

He later reiterated to the New York Times these inconsistences were not about Sebold’s assault. 

“[It] was tragic,” he explained, adding that his suspicions were directed at “the second part of her book about the trial, which didn’t hang together”. 

He left the project earlier this year and hired a private investigator to look into it a little more—he shared the findings with Broadwater’s legal team. 

The team filed a motion to overturn Broadwaters conviction based on the discredited hair analysis. They also argued that relying solely on Sebold’s in-court identification was not enough to prove his guilt. 

In November 2021, Broadwater sobbed as a judge announced his conviction was overturned. 

He later told Associated Press: “I’ve been crying tears of joy and relief the last couple of days. I’m so elated, the cold can’t even keep me cold.”

He then told the New York Times he hopes Sebold will give him an apology one day. 

“I just hope and pray that maybe Ms. Sebold will come forward and say, ‘Hey, I made a grave mistake,’ and give me an apology,” he said, adding, “I sympathise with her, but she was wrong”.  

Sebold is yet to comment on the matter, and Variety reports the Netflix production of Lucky has been abandoned.

Per The Guardian, a spokesperson for Sebold’s publisher said, “Neither Alice Sebold nor Scribner has any comment. Scribner has no plans to update the text of Lucky at this time.”

If you are experiencing sexual abuse or other unwanted behaviour, please contact Rape & Domestic Violence Services Australia.

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