Now, just two weeks before a deportation hearing, a group that includes the staff director of the Senate Finance Committee, the Innocence Project at the University of Virginia and a pro bono attorney say the 22-year-old Alexandria resident is innocent.
They contend that Fairfax County prosecutors failed to disclose key evidence before trial and that newly uncovered records place Conteh away from the scene when the crime occurred. His unusual alibi: Facebook.
The Virginia attorney general’s office said in a court filing that prosecutors did nothing wrong and that the new evidence does not prove that Conteh did not commit the robbery. They point out that the victim said he saw the perpetrator face-to-face and identified Conteh a short time later.
On Thursday, a Fairfax judge is scheduled to hear a petition by Conteh’s attorney asking for the conviction to be overturned.
Russ Sullivan, the Finance Committee director, met Conteh through a mentoring program and has served as his guardian since the death of Conteh’s father. He said that before the robbery case, Conteh, who has no other criminal record beyond a conviction for driving without a license, would chastise kids for getting in trouble — not get into it himself.
Conteh played for the T.C. Williams state championship rugby team in 2009 and sent money to relatives in Sierra Leone, Sullivan said. He survived an ambush by rebel troops there that killed his stepfather and stepsister, his family said.
Conteh, who is in an immigration detention facility in Hampton Roads, was not available to comment. But Sullivan said that Conteh told him, “I think that in the end they are going to figure out who did this.”
Shortly before 6 on a November 2009 evening, Alfredo Cordona-Lopez was behind the Plaza at Landmark shopping center when he was approached by two African American men, one of whom had a knife, he said, according to court papers.
Cordona-Lopez said that one of them demanded money while the other reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet, which had $150 in it, according to the records. The men ran, and Cordona-Lopez told the court that he briefly chased them before calling 911. Phone logs show the call was received one second before 6 p.m.; Cordona-Lopez later told police that he thought the robbery was about two minutes before that.
Police went to the scene and began to question Cordona-
Lopez, court records show.
Conteh says he was on Facebook at a friend’s house and left there on his bike shortly after 6 p.m. to head to the apartment he shared with Sullivan. When Conteh was near the mall, Cordona-Lopez spotted him and told police that he was the perpetrator, court records show.