MIRAMAR (CBS4) - It was a heartwarming story. Barney Brown, wrongfully convicted of a crime that stole 38 years from his life, returned to his old high school as a role model for students. But now the school has withdrawn the welcome mat, after learning more about his criminal past.
In February, Brown returned to Miramar High School, where he would have been among the first graduating class had he not been arrested in 1969 on a rape and robbery charge.
Brown claimed his innocence but still went on trial in juvenile court, where Brown was acquitted. Prosecutors then charged Brown as an adult, where he was convicted. 38 years later, Florida's 11th Judicial Circuit Court said that second trial was illegal, and ordered Brown's release on September 24, 2008.
While in prison, Brown earned his high school diploma and a college degree. He is currently a paralegal in Miami-Dade County and works with youth programs in the county, and in that capacity, he came back to his old high school to speak with students. While at the school, he was honored by officials.
But now, the same people who honored him are saying they would not have done so had they known "the rest of the story".
Brown never told school officials that he pleaded guilty to attempted rape and attempted robbery in a separate case, or that he had been released on parole. Brown was returned to prison after he was accused of robbing a car salesman in 1983, an incident that violated the conditions of his parole. While in prison, Brown was convicted twice for twice possessing weapons.
While Brown was released for wrongful prosecution, his time in prison was extended because of the other legal problems in his past unconnected with his juvenile acquittal.
Speaking with the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Broward school officials said instead of an independent investigation of Brown's past, they relied in information on the web they considered reliable.
"Had this been available, it's safe to say there would not have been an invitation to Mr. Brown to speak to our students," Broward School District spokeswoman Nadine Drew told the newspaper. "Any and all considerations for Mr. Brown to address students in the future have been canceled."
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