A Louisiana man, who spent almost 50 years in prison for the alleged kidnapping and rape of a nurse in 1971, was released from jail Wednesday, after his life sentence and conviction were overturned by a judge who stated the case against him was "weak at best."

State District Judge Richard Anderson said the authorities withheld evidence decades ago that might have led to the freedom of Wilbert Jones, who is currently 65. After his release, Jones thanked God for the freedom and his loyal family for never giving up hope on him. He also hugged his legal team at the Innocence Project New Orleans, who represented Jones since 2003.

Outside Baton Rouge prison he was asked by a reporter if he has resentment against the authorities who allegedly withheld evidence in his case all those years ago.

"I forgave and I forgive," Jones said, citing his faith in God for giving him hope during his incarceration and thus helping him focus on the future.

Prosecutors earlier this year denied the authorities withheld any relevant evidence about other Baton Rouge rapists during the time of his conviction.

"The state was not obligated to document for the defense every rape or abduction that occurred in Baton Rouge from 1971 to 1974," prosecutors wrote in February, according to the Independent.

Jones, now 65, was 19 years old when police arrested him on suspicion of kidnapping a nurse at gunpoint from a Baton Rouge hospital's parking lot and allegedly raping her behind the building on the night of Oct. 2, 1971. He was convicted of aggravated rape during a 1974 retrial and sentence to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

"Most of my life was taken away from me for something I didn't do," Jones said, moments after stepping outside a free man for the first time this century. "I feel wonderful and I thank God for this opportunity. ... And I thank God for this legal team," he added.

When asked, Jones said his plans for the day included enjoying a long-awaited meal of gumbo and potato salad with his loved ones. His brother, Plem Jones, told CBS News he's always known this meal would come.

"I might have missed (only) one or two visits while he was there. We'd sit and talk and cry together," Plem Jones said. "I never gave up on him. I knew that he didn't do it, so it was only a matter of time. I just didn't know when."

Jones' niece, Wajeedah Jones said she already knew what her uncle’s first request would be after being released as the judge set his bail Tuesday at a mere $2,000.

"We will have the gumbo ready for him when he gets out," she said.

Although Jones credited his faith in God with helping him persevere at prison, he admitted the decades spent in jail as an innocent man were not easy.

"It's been very difficult, I mean...very difficult," Jones said, according to NBC News.

Jones’ lawyer, Emily Maw, praised "the extraordinary strength" of a man "who has spent over 16,000 days in prison for something he didn’t do," and would nevertheless "come out with a faith in God and in humanity."