Exonerated man behind bars on new charge

September 1, 2011 4:25:22 PM PDT
A man exonerated after 23 years behind bars faces news charges. Just two years after being released, Ernest Sonnier is back in the Harris County Jail.

By late Thursday afternoon, he was being processed through the Harris County Jail system. His supporters say the whole incident is a misunderstanding, but the woman who's making the allegations against him is painting another picture.

Sorena Cedarburg can't forget what happened on May 3. She said on that day, a man she didn't know came into the convenience store where she worked, taunted her and then exposed himself.

"He said I want you to come out right now," Cedarburg said. "My heart was just pounding fast and fast."

Cedarburg called police right away. Now, almost four months later, Sonnier has been charged with indecent exposure. He's the same man, who back in 2009, was released after spending 23 years behind bars for a rape that DNA evidence proved he didn't commit. On Thursday, Sonnier was escorted by community activist Quanell X as he turned himself in. Quanell X says Sonnier is innocent.

"He said he believe this is nothing more than a concocted scheme to ruin his credibility and ruin his chances for an exoneration. He said he never intended to disrespect the lady, to frighten the lady, to accost the lady; he said he was flirting with her," Quanell X said.

Cedarburg says she was afraid for her safety and that he definitely exposed himself.

"I was scared because I don't want to see stuff like that," Cedarburg said.

Our legal analyst Joel Androphy says this case shouldn't have any effect on Sonnier's efforts for exoneration but should stand on its own merit.

"In this day and age, there's got to be some evidence, either witnesses, or a videotape, picture or something," Androphy said.

Sonnier's supporters maintain the entire incident was overblown, but cederburg says she's ready to go to court because when police officers showed her a photo lineup, she had no doubt.

"As soon as he opened up, I know exactly who it is," Cedarburg said.

Sonnier should be released by Thursday night.

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