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New York City Settles Wrongful Imprisonment Suit For $1 Million

On February 4, 2005, a man convicted of murder and wrongfully imprisoned for five years based on testimony fabricated by prosecutors settled his claim against the City of New York for $1,000,000.

Milton Lantigua, 20,was sitting in front of his Bronx apartment building at around 1 a.m. on June 27, 1990, when he heard gunshots down the block. He went to investigate and found the body of Felix Ayala.

Lantigua was arrested approximately two weeks later after one of his neighbors, Frances Rosario, identified him as the shooter. Rosario, who claimed she witnessed the incident from her bedroom window, provided only a vague" identification of Lantigua at trial. It ended with a hung jury.
The case was retried 1992. This time Lantigua was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 20 years in prison.

In 1996five years after his initial arrestthe appellate division overturned Lantigua's conviction and freed him after determining that Rosario had committed perjury at prosecutors' behest.

Lantigua sued the City of New York, prosecutor Sophia Yozawitz, and supervisor Theresa Gottlieb under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violating his civil rights. He claimed unspecified damages for emotional pain and suffering, lost wages, and lost opportunity.

Irving Cohen, who represented Lantigua, contended that Rosario only identified his client as the gunman after being prompted numerous times. She recanted after the verdict. Furthermore, Yozawitz, the prosecutor in the second trial, admitted she had allowed Rosario to testify that she was alone when the shooting occurred, when in actuality she was with a man she had just met.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York granted immunity to Yozawitz and Gottlieb and dismissed the actions against them. District Court Judge Stephen Robinson refused to dismiss deposition notices against top Bronx prosecutors, however, inducing the City to settle for $1 million.

Cohen, who is based in New York City, said he did not believe the amount was adequate compensation for Lantigua's ordeal, but felt it offered a more expedient and certain outcome. See: Lantigua v. City of New York, USDC SD NY, Case No. 98-Civ-2343.

Source: VerdictSearch New York Reporter

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Related legal case

Lantigua v. City of New York