Exonerated After 18 Years,|Men Seek $129 Million

CENTRAL ISLIP, N.Y. (CN) — Two men exonerated after serving 18 years in prison for the rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl have sued Long Island’s Nassau County, claiming it’s trying to wriggle out of paying a $36 million judgment.
     John Restivo and Dennis Halstead sued Nassau County in Federal Court Monday. The two Florida men were convicted in 1984 of killing Theresa Fusco. They spent 18 years behind bars, but were exonerated in 2005 after forensics tests showed they didn’t do it
     Free again, they filed a civil rights lawsuit against Nassau County in 2006, claiming former Det. Joseph Volpe planted hairs at the scene to pin the girl’s death on them.
     “This former detective planted the only physical evidence over and against” the two men, said their attorney, Anna Benvenutti Hoffmann.
     Detectives also “hid evidence pointing to what is likely the real perpetrator, rapist and murderer,” Benvenutti Hoffmann said in an interview. She is with Neufeld Scheck & Brustin in Manhattan.
     The civil rights case went on for eight years. A jury finally awarded them what amounts to $1 million for each of the years they did hard time.
     Nassau County represented Volpe, then his estate after Volpe died in 2011 during the proceedings.
     Officials then conspired to wriggle out of paying the $36 million judgment, the men say in the complaint.
     Nassau County was required to indemnify them, and even signed off on the judgment, the men say, but it never ponied up. Restivo and Halstead say they voluntarily withdrew their lawsuit based on false representations by Nassau County that it would indemnify them. But the county claimed in February 2015 that it had no obligation to indemnify Volpe’s estate, and sought to stay judgment.
     They say the county’s delays, misconduct and fraud deprived them of the $36 million plus another $7 million in attorneys’ fees, costs, interest and other expenses. They seek treble damages of $129 million to hold Nassau County responsible for its “egregious pattern of dishonesty, misrepresentation and fraud.”
     Nassau County Attorney Carnell Foskey said the county does not comment on pending litigation.
     Fusco’s naked body was found under a pile of leaves near the roller skating rink where she worked.
     Restivo and Halstead accuse the county, its attorney’s office and numerous officials of conspiracy, fraud, aiding and abetting fraud, breach of contract, emotional distress, and negligent misrepresentation.

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