Among the thousands of prosecutors who have tried cases in the name of the people of New York City, Claude Stuart came to hold a handful of unfortunate distinctions:
• He was a serial abuser of his authority. State appellate courts reversed three convictions based on his wrongdoing.
by Joaquin Sapien, ProPublica, and Sergio Hernandez, Special to ProPublica
The murder case against Tony Bennett seemed pretty straightforward.
Shortly before midnight on May 7, 1994, police found a 26-year-old man in the foyer of an apartment building near Flushing, Queens. Jake Powell was near death, blood pouring from a gunshot wound, but he managed to speak the name of the man who had shot him: "Tony Bennett."
Bennett, a two-time felon, was eventually captured, convicted of murder, and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
But Bennett never served anywhere near that sentence. He has, in fact, been free since 2008 because Claude Stuart, the former Queens assistant district attorney who handled his case, violated a basic rule of law by withholding critical evidence from Bennett's attorney. A state appeals court overturned Bennett's conviction and released him after 13 years in prison.
That early release has freed Bennett to describe his role in a crime he had insisted for two decades he did not commit.
"He was wrapped up in a shower curtain in the corner of the bathroom, shivering and shaking," Bennett recalled of Powell, who Bennett said had terrorized his family for years. "He was saying ...