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Sunday, June 16, 2024 | Back issues
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NYC Blamed for 24 Years Lost to Bogus Conviction

BROOKLYN (CN) - Though he was over 1,000 miles away from the scene of the crime, an innocent man spent 24 years in prison before a judge vacated his murder conviction, he claims in court.

Kings County prosecutors framed Jonathan Fleming, the complaint Tuesday in Kings County Supreme Court alleges, in their "perverted" quest to appear "tough on crime" during the height of violence in New York City in the 1980s and '90s.

Fleming was convicted in 1990 for the shooting death a year earlier of Darryl Rush Alston in a Williamsburg housing project that was an "epicenter" of drug deals and corruption during the crime wave.

He filed the complaint one day before the one-year anniversary of his release from prison after the Brooklyn Supreme Court vacated his conviction.

Fleming had maintained throughout his trial that he was vacationing with his family at Disneyworld in Orlando during the time of the murder.

Though he had a time-stamped, hotel telephone bill on him when he got back from vacation to support his alibi, cops took it and prosecutors withheld it, according to the complaint.

That bill allegedly did not emerge until November 2013 after the new guard at the Brooklyn DA's office, Ken Thompson, who was elected in 2013, opened an investigation.

Fleming says his defense attorneys had repeatedly demanded during the trial that prosecutors produce the receipt, but that never happened, he says.

One detective, "after being prepared by the King's County District Attorney's Office," at first denied the existence of the receipt, then later backpedaled to say he "could not remember" if the receipt was taken from him, according to the complaint.

The department also allegedly withheld the results of an independent investigation by the Orlando Police Department confirming Fleming's alibi.

Fleming says this letter emerged in 2013 only after the Conviction Integrity Unit of the Kings County DA's office conducted an investigation into the conviction.

To get their conviction, Fleming says detectives and prosecutors coerced, threatened and paid witnesses to testify against him.

The only alleged eyewitness to the shooting was a self-confessed crack user who said that she was high at the time of the shooting, and not wearing her glasses, he claims.

Fleming says officers promised to drop grand-larceny charges against this pregnant woman in an unrelated matter in exchange for her false testimony, otherwise she could "have her baby in jail," according to the complaint.

She later recanted her testimony.

Another witness meanwhile was pressured to identify Fleming as the shooter while testifying under a false name, the complaint alleges. Fleming says one of the other witnesses, another admitted drug addict, was paid "lunch money" to testify. She too later recanted her story, the 52-page complaint states.

Ken Thompson, a Democrat and the first black prosecutor to control the Kings County District Attorney's Office, defeated then-DA Chuck Hynes in September 2013 by running on a platform critical of the police department.

He has since spearheaded a move to investigate at least 100 potentially bogus convictions from the '80s and '90s, mostly against black men, through his Conviction Review Unit.

Founded in 2014, the unit has led to the release of 13 men wrongly convicted of murders and who spent a combined 232 years in prison for crimes they didn't commit.

Fleming was the fourth man to be released after the unit was started.

"Credible evidence has been uncovered to support the conclusion that Fleming was in Florida, rather than Brooklyn, at the time of the shooting," Thompson said at the time of Fleming's release.

Several men have been released in recent months after spending decades in prison for murders they didn't commit. Many have already sued the former district attorney in the Eastern District of New York.

Alston's real shooter remains free.

Others named as defendants in Fleming's action are the New York City Police Department, Kings County District Attorney's Office, the New York City Housing Authority and several detectives.

The NYPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Fleming seeks punitive damages for civil rights violations.

He is represented by Manhattan-based Edelman & Edelman attorney Paul Callan.

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