NATIONAL NEWS

NYC will pay $17.5 million to man who was wrongly convicted of 1996 murders

Nov 16, 2023, 9:40 AM

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City will pay $17.5 million to a man who spent 24 years in prison for a double homicide he did not commit, city officials said Thursday.

The settlement in the case of George Bell, one of three men convicted for the 1996 killing of a Queens check-cashing store owner and an off-duty police officer, was first reported by The New York Times.

A judge threw out the convictions of Bell and the other two men in 2021 and they were released from the Green Haven Correctional Facility,

The judge, Joseph A. Zayas of the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court, said prosecutors in the cases of Bell, Gary Johnson and Rohan Bolt withheld exculpatory evidence that other people might have committed the slayings.

“The district attorney’s office deliberately withheld from the defense credible information of third-party guilt,” Zayas said. He said that the prosecution had “completely abdicated its truth-seeking role in these cases.”

The exonerations of Bell, Johnson and Bolt happened after Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz set up a conviction integrity unit to review past cases that might have resulted in wrongful convictions.

Katz was first elected district attorney in 2019. At the time the men were exonerated, she said could not stand behind their convictions.

The December 1996 killings of check-cashing store owner Ira Epstein and Officer Charles Davis, working off-duty as a security guard, sparked an intense manhunt, with then-mayor Rudy Giuliani and police officials vowing they “would not rest” until they found the killers.

Bell was 19 when he was arrested on Dec. 24, 1996. He and Johnson initially confessed to involvement in the crime but later recanted. Bolt denied his guilt.

No physical evidence tied any of the men to the crime, according to court papers, and documents that came to light later showed that the police had connected the killings to members of an armed robbery gang that was operating in the area.

But the men were convicted in separate trials and sentenced to between 50 years and life in prison.

Bell’s attorney, Richard Emery, said Thursday, “Recognition from this settlement that George’s torture was unimaginably severe and horrifying vindicates him and his never-ending quest for justice.”

Emery said the deal with the city comes after Bell reached a $4.4 million settlement with the state.

Bell’s $17.5 million settlement with New York City likely won’t be the last payout in the case. Johnson and Bolt have cases pending.

National News

This photo provided by Mattel shows a Barbie doll of Wilma Mankiller. Toy maker Mattel is honoring ...

Associated Press

Barbie doll honoring Cherokee Nation leader is met with mixed emotions

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An iconic chief of the Cherokee Nation, Wilma Mankiller, inspired countless Native American children as a powerful but humble leader who expanded early education and rural healthcare. Her reach is now broadening with a quintessential American honor: a Barbie doll in the late Mankiller’s likeness as part of toymaker Mattel’s “Inspiring […]

1 hour ago

Notes from students expressing support and sharing coping strategies paper a wall, as members of th...

Associated Press

Lacking counselors, US schools turn to the booming business of online therapy

Trouble with playground bullies started for Maria Ishoo’s daughter in elementary school. Girls ganged up, calling her “fat” and “ugly.” Boys tripped and pushed her. The California mother watched her typically bubbly second-grader retreat into her bedroom and spend afternoons curled up in bed. For Valerie Aguirre’s daughter in Hawaii, a spate of middle school […]

1 hour ago

Republican presidential candidate and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during the final event of a ...

Associated Press

Three officials have left a pro-DeSantis super PAC in the group’s latest shake-up, AP sources say

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Three senior members of a super PAC backing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis left the group on Saturday, the latest sign of instability within the 2024 hopeful’s political operation just six weeks before the Iowa Republican caucuses. Kristin Davison parted ways with Never Back Down just after she took over leading […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Authorities identify suspect in killing of 3 homeless men in Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Los Angeles man already in custody in connection with another shooting investigation has been identified as the suspect in three recent killings of homeless men, police said Saturday. Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said Jerrid Joseph Powell, 33, was identified as the suspect in the three killings after authorities […]

7 hours ago

Associated Press

Report: Contaminants being removed from vacant Chicago lot where migrant housing is planned

CHICAGO (AP) — High levels of mercury and other contaminants are being removed from a vacant Chicago lot where a tent camp housing 2,000 migrants is planned, a report from a consultant hired by the city said. The Chicago Tribune reported that the nearly 800-page assessment by Terracon Consultants released Friday night said high levels […]

8 hours ago

Associated Press

Group of swing state Muslims vows to ditch Biden in 2024 over his war stance

CHICAGO (AP) — Muslim community leaders from several swing states pledged to withdraw support for U.S. President Joe Biden on Saturday at a conference in suburban Detroit, citing his refusal to call for a ceasefire in Gaza. Democrats in Michigan have warned the White House that Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas war could cost him […]

11 hours ago

NYC will pay $17.5 million to man who was wrongly convicted of 1996 murders