New York man cleared of murder to sue city for $162 million

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 17, 2014 3:45 PM

By Victoria Cavaliere

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York man imprisoned for nearly 25 years for a murder he did not commit filed preliminary paperwork on Tuesday for a $162 million lawsuit against the city seeking damages for his wrongful conviction, his lawyer said.

After years of appeals and an internal review by the Brooklyn district attorney's office, Jonathan Fleming, 51, was exonerated in April by a judge who cited phone records, receipts, photos and witness accounts placing him in Florida during the murder.

His attorney, Taylor Koss, said the $162 million he would seek in the lawsuit was standard for unjust convictions, based on tabulations including the lengthy time Fleming was locked up and his young age at the time he became incarcerated. But he acknowledged the ultimate settlement with the city would likely be far smaller.

"What I’m looking for is a reasonable settlement that is a fair settlement for Mr. Fleming after losing 25 years of his life," Koss said.

Fleming had always maintained his innocence in the 1989 shooting death of his friend in Brooklyn, but said prosecutors, in a rush to close the case, ignored troves of evidence that would have cleared him.

Fleming left prison with "$92 in his pocket," said Koss. "He's getting by, but it's a struggle."

The lawsuit will seek damages for lost wages, medical expenses and suffering, Koss said.

"I'm reasonable. I realize that a settlement from city funds won't be near that level (being sought). My goal is to come to a swift resolution with the city comptroller," he said.

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer's office declined to comment on the claim.

Fleming's 1990 conviction was among seven vacated by the King's County Conviction Review Unit, set up in 2011 because of concerns some felony cases had been mishandled by police and prosecutors.

Koss also said he planned to file a wrongful conviction lawsuit against the state of New York.

(Reporting by Victoria Cavaliere; Editing by Barbara Goldberg, Jonathan Allen and Peter Cooney)