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Yvonne Crittle

Other Virginia Sexual Assault Cases
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In June 1988, 24-year-old Yvonne Crittle and 37-year-old Steve Lawton were charged with raping and robbing a 17-year-old woman at gunpoint in Newport News, Virginia.

The complainant, Tammy Wilson, told police that Lawton had raped her while Crittle held a gun on her. Lawton and Crittle were charged with rape, aggravated sexual battery, robbery and illegal use of a firearm.

Based solely on Wilson’s testimony, Crittle was convicted of all the charges by Newport News City jury on November 1, 1988. She was sentenced to seven years in prison.

Lawton was convicted at a separate trial on September 6, 1990 of rape and illegal use of a firearm.  He was sentenced to 72 years in prison.

Crittle was released on parole in 1990. She had kicked her crack cocaine addiction. She got a job and married Simon Johnson, changing her name to Yvonne Crittle Johnson.

In 1996, after a chance encounter with Tammy Wilson, Crittle Johnson arranged to meet with Wilson wearing a concealed tape recorder. During their conversation, Wilson admitted she had lied about the rape.

Crittle Johnson turned the tape over to the Newport News City prosecutor’s office. The Commonwealth’s attorney, Howard Gwynn, agreed to reinvestigate the case. Wilson recanted to the prosecutor’s investigators and passed a polygraph examination.
 
Wilson said that at the time, she was persuaded by Crittle and Lawton, who were drug addicts, to let them pawn some of her belongings for $200. Wilson admitted that she had consensual sex with Lawton and then she invented the story of the rape because she was angry that Crittle and Lawton refused to give her the money from the pawnshop. Instead, they used the money to buy drugs.

In January 1997, she signed a sworn affidavit recanting her testimony. Gwynn then moved to vacate the convictions of Crittle Johnson and Lawton and dismissed the charges.

Gwynn also supported petitions for clemency filed on behalf of Crittle Johnson and Lawton. On January 15, 1997, Virginia Gov. George Allen granted an absolute pardon to Lawton. Crittle Johnson was granted an absolute pardon on April 30, 1997.

The Virginia legislature subsequently passed a bill awarding $28,000 in compensation to Crittle Johnson. A bill that would have awarded Lawton $500,000 failed to pass. At the time, Lawton remained in prison with 10 years to go on a sentence for grand larceny and forgery convictions.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 2/18/2016
State:Virginia
County:Newport News City
Most Serious Crime:Sexual Assault
Additional Convictions:Robbery, Illegal Use of a Weapon
Reported Crime Date:1988
Convicted:1988
Exonerated:1997
Sentence:7 years
Race:Caucasian
Sex:Female
Age at the date of crime:24
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No