Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 December 2014

$9.9m payout for man framed by New York cops

New York authorities are paying out 9.9 million dollars to a man framed by a notorious police detective
New York authorities are paying out 9.9 million dollars to a man framed by a notorious police detective

New York City authorities have agreed to pay 9.9 million dollars (£6.7 million) to an innocent man who spent 19 years behind bars after being framed by a notorious police detective who doubled as killer for the mob.

The settlement for Barry Gibbs, 61, set a record for a civil rights lawsuit against the city. The previous high - 8 million dollars (£5.4 million) - went to a man left paralysed when he was shot by a police officer in 1999.

The wrongful conviction of Mr Gibbs, a former postal worker, was a disturbing footnote to the sensational case of former New York Police Department detectives Louis Eppolito and Stephen Caracappa, the so-called "Mafia cops".

The former detectives were convicted in April 2006 and imprisoned for life on charges they moonlighted as professional hit men in the 1980s and 1990s, settling scores against rivals of a Lucchese crime family underboss for tens of thousands of dollars. A jury found Eppolito and Caracappa responsible for eight murders, along with kidnapping and other crimes.

Eppolito had been the lead investigator in a prostitute's 1986 killing. He located a witness who testified at a trial that, while jogging, he had seen Mr Gibbs dump the body of the strangled victim near a bridge.

Mr Gibbs, who at the time was struggling with a drug problem, admitted he once had an "encounter" with the woman but said he never harmed her, but he was convicted and sentenced in 1988 to 20 years to life in prison.

Following Eppolito's arrest in the mob killings, Mr Gibbs's lawyers urged federal agents and prosecutors to re-examine his case. The discovery of an old homicide file on the prostitute's killing stashed in the former detective's Las Vegas home raised suspicions further.

Under renewed questioning by the FBI, the witness recanted, claiming Eppolito had bribed and intimidated him into falsely identifying Mr Gibbs. Investigators have speculated the former detective may have been trying to deflect attention away from mobsters who were the actual killers.

Brooklyn district attorney's office, which prosecuted Mr Gibbs, decided to seek his release in 2005 after it "determined the witness's trial testimony was suspect". Mr Gibbs sued the city for the wrongful conviction in federal court in Brooklyn in 2006.

"We have agreed to settle this case and believe it is in the best interest of all parties," the city;s Law Department said in a statement.

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