Innocent Queens man Kareem Bellamy, wrongfully imprisoned for 14 years on murder charges, reaped a $2.75 million windfall from New York State authorities on Wednesday.
“It’s a message that I’ve been saying from the start — that I was innocent,” Bellamy told the Daily News. “But it doesn’t make up for what I went through to be honest.”
Charges against Bellamy, 47, were dropped in 2011 after evidence emerged that cleared him of the fatal Queens stabbing of James Abbott Jr. 17 years earlier.
But prosecutors in the Queens District Attorney’s office never acknowledged that Bellamy was innocent — even after a judge vacated his conviction — arguing instead that an audiotaped confession by a second murder suspect was phony.
“Mr. Bellamy has now been freed from that conviction based on an outright fraud perpetrated against this court,” said Assistant District Attorney Brad Leventhal said at the time. “He has not — I repeat — he has not been exonerated.”
But Bellamy’s longtime lawyer Thomas Hoffman said the settlement, which was approved by Alan C. Marin of the New York Court of Claims, helped make that case.
“It shows some recognition that he never committed the murder,” Hoffman, who has worked with Bellamy for 11 years, told the News. “That’s why it is so symbolic that he received this money.”
Bellamy, a father of three who was incarcerated at the age of 26 until he was 41, was released from prison on bail in 2008.
He now helps advocate for the wrongfully convicted with the Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation.
The Queens District Attorney’s office had no comment by press time.
article by Eli Rosenberg via nydailynews.com