Man exonerated of murder settles suit against New York for $10 million

NEW YORK Tue Aug 19, 2014 4:03pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - A man who was incarcerated for 16 years for a murder he did not commit has settled a lawsuit against New York City for $10 million, two months before his case was scheduled to go to trial.

Jabbar Collins, 42, was sentenced in 1995 to 34 years to life in prison for the murder of Rabbi Abraham Pollack in Brooklyn. He was freed in 2010 after a judge found compelling evidence that Brooklyn prosecutors relied on false testimony and threatened a witness to secure Collins' conviction.

A year later, Collins brought a $150 million wrongful conviction lawsuit against the city, saying the Brooklyn district attorney's office fabricated evidence, threatened witnesses and hid the fact that one witness who tied Collins to the murder recanted his testimony. The case was set to go to trial on Oct. 20 before U.S. District Judge Frederic Block in Brooklyn federal court.

Collins' attorney, Joel Rudin, said in an interview on Tuesday that an agreement was reached on Monday in a meeting with the city's top lawyer, Zachary Carter, and his staff. On Tuesday, Block issued an order dismissing the case.

Collins' exoneration and lawsuit helped hasten the political downfall of six-term Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, who lost a re-election bid last year to Kenneth Thompson. Thompson, a former federal prosecutor, has made investigating claims of wrongful convictions a top priority.

In a statement issued on Tuesday by his lawyer, Collins said he had three goals in bringing the lawsuit, one of which was to "expose the illegal practices of District Attorney Hynes and to help drive him from office."

Hynes could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Collins' other goals were to demonstrate his innocence and receive compensation "that would recognize the enormity of the harm that was done to me and my family."

In an email, a spokeswoman for the New York City Law Department said the settlement "is fair and is in New York City's best interests."

In July, Collins settled a lawsuit against New York state for $3 million.

While incarcerated at Green Haven State Prison, Collins trained himself in the law, and worked after his release as a paralegal for Rudin. He now plans to take a leave of absence and then enter the ministry, the statement said. But he will continue working on wrongful conviction cases, the statement added.

(Reporting by Bernard Vaughan; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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