New York State pays $2 million to settle man's wrongful conviction
An apprentice elevator mechanic whose murder conviction was overturned after he had spent nearly 11 years in prison has been paid $2 million by New York State to settle a wrongful conviction lawsuit he filed.
The mechanic, Michael Clancy, 38, was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for a 1997 shooting in the Bronx. He was released on bail in 2008 after a State Supreme Court justice in the Bronx threw out his murder conviction, saying a new witness had cast doubt on two people who had testified at his trial. In 2009, the Bronx district attorney’s office said that it would not move to have Mr. Clancy retried.
"For Michael, it’s the final exoneration," his lawyer, Ronald L. Kuby, said in a telephone interview on Monday after receiving the $2 million check, which was dated Sept. 26. "It means the end of a very long ordeal."
Mr. Kuby said the settlement was the fourth largest in a wrongful conviction case in the state. Mr. Kuby filed suit under a 1984 law aimed at providing redress for innocent people who had been wrongfully convicted of crimes.
"It means this is finally over," Mr. Clancy said on Monday from his lawyer’s office. "I’ll be honest with you: I’ve been wanting to put this in the past."
He said he wanted to buy a house for his parents. His father, also Michael, is a retired elevator mechanic; his mother, Gloria, is a retired special education teacher.
"They squandered a lot of their retirement money on my legal bills," the younger Mr. Clancy said. "It’s only right that I give them the retirement they deserve. I’m still going to be working. This is a nice amount of money. It relieves the financial pressure, but it’s not something where I could say, hey, I don’t need to work."
The case began with the shooting of John Buono, a worker for a drug dealer named David Prieto, who was known as Scarface Dave in the Parkchester neighborhood, where Mr. Clancy lived. Mr. Prieto testified at a hearing in 2007 that he knew Mr. Clancy from the neighborhood; Mr. Clancy disputed that in an interview in 2009.
Mr. Prieto said at the 2007 hearing that Mr. Clancy had been in a van that passed by shortly before he and Mr. Buono went into a pizzeria on Mount Morris Avenue. Mr. Prieto said they did not realize that a rival drug dealer was in a car behind the van.
While they were waiting for their food, a man with a 9-millimeter handgun ran in and shot Mr. Buono in the chest. The gunman fled, and Mr. Prieto chased him, court documents said.
Detectives interviewed Mr. Prieto, but according to the recommendation for dismissal in 2009: "The only information he gave then was that he was in the pizza shop, heard the shot, saw the shooter and chased after him. Mr. Prieto gave no indication at that time that he knew the shooter or could identify him."
Mr. Clancy was arrested in April 1997 after he was identified by the two people who testified at his trial, a clerk and a customer from the pizza parlor. Mr. Kuby said that no physical evidence tied Mr. Clancy to the murder. No gunpowder or bloodstains were found on him, Mr. Kuby said.
According to the recommendation for dismissal in 2009, federal prosecutors told the district attorney’s office in 1999 that Mr. Prieto was cooperating with them and had said he recognized the gunman as a rival drug dealer. That dealer was questioned, "but nothing came of that interview," according to the recommendation for dismissal. Another suspect, Andrew DeJesus, was later arrested and charged with Mr. Buono’s murder. A trial date for Mr. DeJesus has not been set.
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