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On a mission to help others after spending nearly 20 years behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit

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You may remember the name James Tillman. The Glastonbury man was convicted of rape, assault, and robbery in 1989, but then was exonerated and freed nearly two decades later.

Now, he's on a mission to help others.

After 18.5 years behind bars for a crime he didn't commit, it's doubtful anyone would fault Tillman for being angry. He could be angry at the state, prosecutors, the judge, or his lawyers, but he's actually the farthest thing from angry. Not only is he living every day to the fullest, but he's spreading joy and encouraging others to never give up hope.

"It's hard but you can overcome," he explains. "If I can achieve something, you can achieve something.

Tillman now has a new happy life, a wife, a house, and a car. He's a college student and soon will own a business.

"Sometimes I wake up and I look around and I say I'm at home," he said. "Many days I woke up and I'm in a jail cell. Now I wake up and I have a wife and there's that joy that I'm not back in prison."

While the state awarded him $5 million for the years he wrongfully spent in jail, Tillman says there is no need for anyone to apologize.

"I look at it like it was an accident. I was able to live through, some accident people don't," he said. "I probably lost a little something in this accident but I'm able to move forward and I'm not gonna move forward with hate I'm gonna move forward with love."

That's his motto, especially when he attends class at Goodwin College, and talks to fellow students who may be losing their way.

"All of his stories what he shares with me, to get that experience, help me get a bigger outlook and let me know from where we are you can make it anywhere," said Mike Hemmingway, one of the students Tillman has been mentoring.

The two meet weekly to go over Mike's struggles and goals and the young man says it's helping him stay focused and hopeful about the future.

"He pushes me to do good, greater than he does," Hemmingway said. "Be a business owner, home owner, firefighter, give back to the community."

Tillman said he's learned you can never give up hope.

"Let's just deal with things with love. Let's just move forward with love and I think if we just start moving forward in love this world is gonna be a better place, Tillman said.