MANHATTAN (CN) - Three innocent men spent 18 years in prison after New York Police Department detectives framed them for murders to which they had no connection, the men claim in court.
Carlos Perez, Michael Cosme and Devon Ayers sued New York City, the New York City Police Department and Dets. Michael Donnelly and Thomas Aiello, in Federal Court.
The men claim in separate complaints that they were among the six people wrongfully accused and convicted of the unrelated murders of Federal Express executive Denise Raymond and taxi driver Baithe Diop, who were shot in the Bronx in the winter of 1995.
They claim Donnelly and Aiello, who led the investigations, forced witnesses to give false testimony against them and hid exculpating evidence.
The plaintiffs were convicted of both murders and each served almost 18 years in prison before the charges against them were dismissed in 2013.
Two other people, Eric Glisson and Cathy Watkins, were convicted of the Diop murder only, and a sixth person, Israel Vasquez, served time for the Raymond murder. Glisson, Watkins and Vasquez are not parties to the lawsuits.
"Defendants Michael Donnelly and Thomas Aiello (collectively the 'individual defendants') were the two NYPD detectives who led the investigation that wrongfully implicated plaintiff and the others," Perez says in his lawsuit. "Their intentional misconduct led directly to plaintiff's wrongful arrest, conviction and imprisonment. The individual defendants concocted a conspiracy theory according to which the two murders were related. They manufactured the entire prosecution by coercing and bribing two 'witnesses' to give false testimony that placed plaintiff at the scene of both murders and attributed damning inculpatory statements to him. To overcome the fact that these witnesses' false stories were self-contradictory and implausible, the individual defendants fed them non-public details about the murders to make them seem credible. The individual defendants also suppressed evidence that would have disproven the case against plaintiff, including surveillance footage that undermined the testimony of a third 'witness' and phone records that would have implicated the real murderers.
"Had the individual defendants followed up on basic leads instead of intentionally framing six innocent people, they would have caught Mr. Diop's real murderers (who have since confessed to the crime) and prevented several heinous crimes that those individuals instead remained free to commit.
"The case the individual defendants contrived rested principally on the false testimony of three witnesses. First, a troubled 16-year-old named Cathy Gomez claimed she overheard plaintiff and others planning the murders in a secret meeting and then later bragging about their crimes in a local park. Second, a neighborhood drug addict named Miriam Tavares claimed she witnessed the Diop homicide in intricate detail while perched on top of her toilet, peering out through a four-inch crack in her bathroom window in the dead of the night. Finally, Kim Alexander - Ms. Raymond's co-worker - testified that she saw a man named Charles McKinnon, the alleged mastermind of the Raymond murder, harassing and stalking Ms. Raymond as she left her office on the evening she was killed.
"This 'evidence' was an elaborate farce contrived by defendants Donnelly and Aiello. The testimony of all three witnesses was a product of the individual defendants' imaginations.