Shawn Massey, 37, was released from state prison earlier this month. He had two years left on his 14-year sentence.
The innocence project at Duke University's law school says it spent more than four years arguing Massey was the victim of an eyewitness's mistaken identification.
The prosecution's office, led by Mecklenburg District Attorney Peter Gilchrist, says it botched the 1998 case by failing to tell defense attorneys the victim expressed doubt she had correctly identified Massey as her attacker.
Nineteen innocent people have been released from prison in the past 15 years.