Conteh was detained and later charged, but officers did not find a knife or Cordona-Lopez’s money on him, according to court records.
Conteh’s supporters point out inconsistencies between Cordona-Lopez’s description of the perpetrators and what Conteh was wearing when he was stopped. The victim said the man with the knife had on a gray, hooded jacket and white tennis shoes. Conteh was wearing a black, hoodless jacket and flip-flops.
The attorney general’s office and county prosecutors declined to comment because the case is pending.
Detectives, however, have said that Conteh’s alibi was suspect because he was riding in the direction away from his home, and a judge later said in court that Conteh had enough time to change his clothes between the crime and when he was stopped.
During a 2010 trial, Cordona-Lopez pointed to Conteh when asked who had taken his money. Conteh testified that he was innocent and had talked with police “because I didn’t have nothing to hide,” according to a trial transcript.
Conteh was picked up by immigration officials soon after he was released from jail. He was in the United States legally but risks deportation because of the conviction.
Attorney Anand Ramana and the Innocence Project at U-Va. say that prosecutors failed to disclose Cordona-Lopez’s three convictions, including one for presenting a fake Social Security card to a police officer during a traffic stop. They said the information casts doubt on Cordona-Lopez’s credibility. Cordona-Lopez could not be reached to comment.
The Virginia attorney general’s office says that the information was readily available and did not need to be disclosed.
Conteh’s team also obtained Facebook records showing that a picture was posted to Conteh’s account at 6:09 p.m. — about 11 minutes after the crime. A message was also posted at 6:11 p.m. Those records, they say, bolster Conteh’s contention that he was more than a mile away at a friend’s house and on Facebook about the time of the crime. The friend could not be reached to comment.
The attorney general’s office has said that there is no way to prove that Conteh was the one who made the Facebook posts.
Mabinty Conteh, Maligie’s grandmother, said she fears that he will be sent back to Sierra Leone.
“Who is going to watch him? Who is going to care for him?” she said. “I’m going to lose him again.”