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Tears and forgiveness as Longview dad, daughter speak on false rape allegations

A Longview father, wrongly accused of raping his own child tearfully spoke out on national television with his daughter at his side.

Cassandra Kennedy was 11 years old in 2001 when she accused her father of rape. Now, as a 23-year-old, she apologized to her now-free dad on “Katie.”

“Thank you for being a good dad and I’m sorry for my wrong perspective as a child about you,” she told her dad, Thomas Edward Kennedy, on the show. “I’m glad you’re here for me now.”

Last January, Cassandra told police she made up the rape allegations when she was a child.

“I was just angry and upset because I felt like he wasn’t around enough and you know, broken promises and stuff like that,” Cassandra said. Host Katie Couric asked her if she had just wanted more of her dad, “I did. I wanted more of my dad.”

Thomas denied the rape allegations at the time but was convicted and sentenced to more than 15 years in prison. After serving nearly a decade, he was released and all charges against him were dismissed.

When he was released, “I felt joy, I felt security. Knowing that my prayer had finally been answered. I had hope and faith all along,” Thomas said.

As an innocent man in prison, Thomas said it was scary and horrible: not knowing from one second to the next what was going to come at him.

When he was released, and Cassandra, now an adult, was reunited with her dad, she feared his response.

“I didn’t really know for sure what he was thinking or what he was going to say or anything like that. Then I saw he took his hand out from behind his back and had a bouquet of flowers for me. So I melted right there. It was awesome.”

In April when Cassandra recanted her story, prosecutors said they were unsure whether she lied in 2001 or is lying now. Cowlitz County Prosecutor Sue Baur said there was sufficient evidence for a jury to convict Thomas Kennedy at the time.

“It’s impossible for anyone to know what the truth is, isn’t it?” Baur had said. “There is basically no way that a jury now would be able to convict […] when she’s recanting now. But, technically that doesn’t mean that anybody has made a finding that she lied back then.”

Baur said her office would not seek to have the case tried again, and that the statute of limitations prevents her office from charging the daughter with false reporting.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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