Government officials conspired with a mobster to frame 4 people for murder. One spent 33 years in jail, and another 29 years. The other two died in prison. Now, these government officials have names. They have home addresses which are known. They are free men. Why?
Why is the legal remedy only a payment by the government?
In what appears to be the largest sum of money ever awarded to people who were wrongfully convicted, a judge today ordered the federal government to pay $101.8 million to make amends for framing four men for a murder they did not commit.
Two of the men died in prison after being falsely convicted in the 1965 gangland murder. Another, Peter Limone, spent 33 years in jail before he was exonerated in 2001. The fourth, Joseph Salvati, spent 29 years in prison.
“It took 30 years to uncover this injustice,” Federal District Judge Nancy Gertner said in announcing her decision. She said the case was about “the framing of innocent men,” adding that F.B.I. officials allowed their employees up the line to ruin lives.”
The men were exonerated after the discovery of secret F.B.I. memos that were never turned over to state prosecutors or defense lawyers during the trial in 1968. The memos indicated that the government’s key witness, a hit man for the mob named Joseph “The Animal” Barboza, had lied when he said the four men had killed the victim, a low-level mobster, Edward Deegan, known as Teddy.
Mr. Barboza’s motivation was to protect the real killer, and F.B.I. officials went along, the memos suggested, because Mr. Barboza had been helping them solve cases and because the killer, Vincent Flemmi, was an F.B.I. informant.
In her decision today, Judge Gertner forcefully criticized the F.B.I. and the argument made by Justice Department lawyers that federal authorities were not required to share information with state prosecutors, and were not responsible for the results of a state prosecution.
“The government’s position is, in a word, absurd,” Judge Gertner said.