A federal judge on Monday vacated the wrongful convictions of Danial Williams and Joseph Dick, two of the so-called “Norfolk 4” ex-sailors who each spent more than a decade in prison for the 1997 rape and murder of Michelle Moore-Bosko.

U.S. District Judge John A. Gibney Jr. of Richmond exonerated the men five days after Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D) conceded errors in the initial investigation and withdrew his office’s long-standing opposition to their claims of innocence, citing Gibney’s Sept. 26 opinion that “no sane human being” could find the men guilty.

The convictions of the Norfolk-based Navy men had long been contested, based on what they argued were inconsistent and uncorroborated false confessions made under police coercion and threat of the death penalty.

DNA evidence in 1998 matched a fifth man, Omar Ballard. Ballard was an admitted rapist and associate of the victim who confessed to committing the crime alone and was known to police who had information linking him to at least one other violent assault days earlier at the same apartment complex.

Then-Gov. Tim Kaine (D) granted conditional pardons and released Williams, Dick and Derek Tice from prison in 2009, but left their convictions standing. Tice has since been exonerated. Eric Wilson completed his sentence, so courts have rejected his bid for exoneration.

The wrongful conviction of Danial Williams, one of the "Norfolk 4" murder defendants, was vacated. ( Danial Williams/Courtesy of Danial Williams)

The group’s claims of innocence had drawn support from 10 former state attorney generals, more than 20 former FBI agents and 13 original jurors in two of the cases.

In a statement through their lawyers, the men thanked the judge, adding that at the time of their arrests they had no criminal histories and “wanted nothing more than to serve their country and make careers in the Navy.”

“They lost their reputations and decades of their lives in prison and under harsh parole conditions as registered sex offenders. ” said attorneys George Kendall and Don Salzman.

Joseph J. Dick Jr., one of the "Norfolk 4," had his conviction vacated. (Joseph Dick /Courtesy of Joseph Dick)