After serving 23 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, David Ranta is a free man. And after filing a lawsuit against the City of New York for the decades of his life lost while locked up, Ranta will -- rightfully so -- be a wealthy man, too.
Ranta was awarded $6.4 million on Thursday as his lawsuit came to a close. Attorney Pierre Sussman spoke to the New York Times about the settlement.
“While no amount of money could ever compensate David for the 23 years that were taken away from him, this settlement allows him the stability to continue to put his life back together,” Sussman said. “We are now focusing our efforts on pursuing an unjust conviction claim with the State of New York.”
In 1991, Ranta was convicted of murdering a Brooklyn rabbi. He was sentenced to 37.5 years in prison. Though Ranta always maintained his innocence, district attorney Charles Hynes rejected numerous appeals from Ranta to re-examine his conviction.
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Then, two decades later, a witness came forward and testified that during the 1991 investigation, a detective told him to pick the man with “the big nose” out of a lineup. Ranta was framed.
The confession concerned the city’s Conviction Integrity Unit. They decided to re-examine Ranta’s case.
During the investigation, two other witnesses admitted they lied about Ranta’s involvement in the crime. The widow of the real killer, identified as now-deceased Joseph Astin, came forward and said her husband admitted in private to killing the rabbi. Detective Louis Scarcella briefly investigated Astin in 1991 for the murder, but dropped the investigation after Astin died in a car crash. Desperate for a conviction, Scarcella compiled all the witnesses and evidence he could in order to convict Ranta.
The Conviction Integrity Unit ruled Ranta’s conviction corrupt. He was set free in May of 2013. District Attorney Comptroller Scott Stringer spoke to the media after yesterday's settlement.
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“This settlement is in the best interests of all parties and closes the door on a truly regrettable episode in our city’s history,” Stringer said. “I am pleased that my office was able to move quickly on this case.”