On December 1, 1989, 5-year-old Brodie Leap, in response to repeated questioning by his mother, said that his father, 31-year-old Earnest Leap, had fondled his genitals.
The accusation came about three months after Earnest and the boy’s mother had finalized their divorce and Earnest was given primary custody of Brodie and his brother, Josh.
In 1992, Leap entered an Alford plea to a charge of criminal sexual assault in Jackson County Circuit Court. An Alford plea allows a defendant to maintain innocence, but concede that the prosecution has evidence that would be sufficient for a conviction if the case went to trial. Leap entered the plea with the agreement that he would be sentenced to three years probation.
Leap completed his probation with a spotless record. However, in 1994, after a sex offender registration law was enacted, Leap was required to register, which, he ater said, “ruined my reputation.”
In 2007, Brodie Leap recanted the allegation against his father and said he knew it was a lie from the very beginning. He said he was coerced by his mother, who was angry she did not have primary custody of him and his brother. The recantation was made part of a request for a gubernatorial pardon.
In 2015, Leap’s family members enlisted the support of Missouri State Representative Jim Neely, who petitioned Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon for a pardon. The Kansas City Star newspaper published a lengthy article about the case, detailing the impact on Leap’s life caused by being forced to register as a sex offender. Brodie told the newspaper, “I live with the guilt of that lie every day of my life.”
On August 19, 2016, Gov. Nixon granted Leap a pardon, noting that Brodie had recanted. “In the case of Earnest Leap, the information that has come to light more recently and the fact that he has been a law-abiding and productive member of society were compelling enough for me to grant a pardon,” Nixon said in a statement.
– Maurice Possley https://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/Pages/casedetail.aspx?caseid=4968