American exchange student Amanda Knox was acquitted of the murder of British student Meredith Kercher and released from an Italian prison in Perugia, following her successful appeal on Monday.

Knox, 24, a native of Seattle, and her former boyfriend, Italian Raffaele Sollecito, were arrested four years ago for the drug-fueled sexual assault of Kercher, 21 at the time of her death. Kercher's body was discovered in the apartment that she and Knox shared.

Knox collapsed in tears when the court read out the verdict, at a little before 10 p.m. local time; the verdict rapidly became a cause for celebration in the U.S. The court acquitted Sollecito of the same charges, leaving both free to walk out of the court room.

I am not what they say I am. I did not kill. I did not rape. I did not steal, Knox said, in her statement to the court, her voice trembling.

However, the court did not clear Knox's record completely, leaving that of defamation intact. She will have to pay a fine of 22,000 euros, on a charge of slander, for accusing bartender Diya Patrick Lumumba of the crime

Nevertheless, she slumped down in her chair and began to cry, before falling into the arms of one of her lawyers, Maria Del Grosso.

She'd been terrified; if I hadn't held her up she would have crumbled, Del Grosso told New York Times, All she could say was thank you.

The crowd outside the court had grown so big during the appeals that several roads had to be cordoned off and more than a dozen members of the judicial police force were placed on call, to avoid possible disorder when and after the verdict was announced.

Kercher's family issued a statement, through a representative, after the verdict, saying that while they respected the decision of the judges, they did not understand how the decision of the first trial could be so radically overturned.

We still trust the Italian judicial system and hope that the truth will eventually emerge, they said.

Knox is expected to arrive in the U.S. on Tuesday. According to CNN, she was seen leaving the Cappane prison in Perugia a little after 5 p.m. EST, in a Mercedes sedan with tinted windows. One of Knox's friends told CNN that her passport, which had expired while she was in prison, is valid now.

The U.S. State Department provided a statement of support to Knox on Monday.

The United States appreciates the careful consideration of this matter within the Italian judicial system, said Victoria Nuland, a spokeswoman for the State Department, Our embassy in Rome will continue to provide the appropriate consular assistance to Ms. Knox and her family.

However, Knox's acquittal has not gone down well with everyone. Some Italians in the Umbrian hill town of Perugia still feel that she is guilty. Dozens of people who gathered outside the court were clearly of that belief, when they shouted Assassina!  Assassina! after the verdict came out.

We're thankful that the nightmare is over, Amanda's sister, Deanna Knox, said when she addressed the crowd, She has suffered for four years for a crime that she did not commit. We are thankful to the court for looking for the truth. We now respectfully ask you to give her family the privacy to recover from this horrible ordeal.