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Man Framed for Murder by N.Y. Cop Gets $6.4M

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

A man framed for murder by an NYPD detective has settled a complaint with the City of New York for $6.4 million.

David Ranta, 58, spent 23 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit based on the machinations of a rogue detective, Louis Scarcella, The New York Times reports.

Although Ranta can't get back his 23 years, he may still have a legal bone to pick with those who put him away.

Flawed Murder Case Ends in Release

Ranta was convicted of the 1990 murder of a Hasidic rabbi in Brooklyn. According to the Times, Ranta claims his confession to the murder was fabricated by former detective Scarcella.

Scarcella had been under investigation by the district attorney's Conviction Integrity Unit, which discovered that Scarcella had used two career criminals as witnesses. They admitted to lying in order to "obtain get-out-of-jail excursions provided by Mr. Scarcella."

Even more disturbing, according to the Times, prosecutors discovered that a potential suspect had been dropped by Scarcella -- one whose widow later confessed that her husband was the real killer.

Any one of these issues would have violated a defendant's constitutional right to exculpatory evidence under Brady, and may explain why the Brooklyn District Attorney asked for Ranta's indictment to be dismissed in 2013.

Settlement Without Civil Rights Suit

Once out of prison, Ranta filed a $150 million claim against the City of New York which, according to the Times, was settled for $6.4 million "without involving the city's legal department." In New York City, like many other metro areas, those injured by the government must first file an administrative tort claim with that government before being allowed to file a civil lawsuit.

This process gives the city, state, or federal government a chance to respond and remedy the problem without involving the court system. In Ranta's case, his claim was settled for less than 5 percent of his initial demand -- but without seeing the inside of a courtroom.

According to the Times, Ranta plans to file a separate wrongful conviction claim against the state of New York. Such claims can also lead to large payouts for victims: For example, another wrongly convicted man, Alan Newton, served 20 years in prison for rape and received an $18.5 million settlement from NYC after being exonerated by DNA evidence.

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