SPOKANE, Wash. -- Three men convicted of assault and a drive-by shooting in 2008 were sentenced to a combined 88 years in prison. They all maintained their innocence. Last December, charges against two of them were dropped. Robert Larson stayed behind bars missing a fifth Christmas with his family. This year, it's a different story.
WATCH: Wrongly convicted: Three Spokane men free after 5 years in jail
Larson told KREM 2 News he had an alibi for the night this crime occurred but no one seemed to believe him.
Larson served four years, seven months, and eight days after he was convicted for robbery, assault and a drive by shooting. His cousin Paul Statler and childhood friend Tyler Gassman were also convicted for their alleged involvement. All three swore from day one they had nothing to do with it.
The men claim a bogus witness pointed the finger at them in exchange for a lesser sentence. They also said prosecutors shocked them by changing the date they say the crime occurred just before trial. The men claimed that put holes in their alibis.
They sat in jail for nearly five years until Innocence Project Northwest picked up the case. Larson said they worked it for months and eventually provided the court with new phone and work records Larson said his original lawyers never did. The judge agreed the new evidence was enough to create doubt and dismissed the charges.
Statler and Gassman were released late last year, but Larson did time all the way into 2013.
This is Larson’s first Christmas home with this family in half a decade, and despite doing hard time for a crime the men insist they were framed for, their attitudes are remarkably positive.
“You need to stay positive in order to be successful," said Statler.
"Our worst day out here is still better than any day in there," said Gassman.
And Larson said he still can't stop counting his blessings.
"I'm the most thankful for my freedom and being [with] the people I want to be with instead of being withheld from them for something we did not do," he said.
The men's families continually thank the judge and Innocence Project Northwest for helping to free them, calling both ‘Santa Claus.’