State of City Pays Wrongly Convicted Man $13 million

Craig D. Frazier | 8/21/2014, 4:53 p.m.

On Monday, Jabbar Collins, 42, convicted of the 1994 killing of an Orthodox rabbi, won a $10 million settlement with New York City. A federal judge overturned the conviction after an investigation of former Brooklyn district attorney Charles J. Hynes proved that he mishandled the trial. Collins was released from prison in 2010 after serving 15 years. After his release, he sued the city, nine investigators and prosecutors. That set off a chain reaction, which led to a number of cases prosecuted by Hynes to be vacated. The settlement is the latest multimillion dollar payout under first-year mayor Bill de Blasio, whose administration has worked to end longstanding litigation.

Overwhelmed by the ruling, Collins said his emotions were all over the place. “I lost some of the best years of my life in prison, and now I’m starting my life all over again as a middle-aged man,” said Collins. “A part of me wanted to put all these people on the witness stand.”

During the trial, Collins’ lawyer, Joel Rudin, exposed questionable policies under Hynes and his top assistants. The facts brought to light that officers Vincent Gerecitano and Jose R. Hernandez working the case coerced a heroin addict to implicate Collins. Michael F. Vecchione, the prosecutor, threatened the heroin addict with prison unless he agreed to cooperate. Two other witnesses made accusations of similar treatment. Vecchione served under Mr. Hynes as a deputy chief of the homicide bureau in 1992 and later served as chief of the bureau and the trial division before taking over the rackets bureau.

Hynes, who was voted out of office last November, acknowledged in a sworn deposition last year that he no longer believed Collins was guilty of killing Rabbi Abraham Pollack in 1994. “I believe Jabbar Collins is innocent,” District Attorney Kenneth Thompson told the Daily News editorial board Tuesday. “A travesty of justice happened in that case.”

Collins’ lawyer, Joel Rudin, told the Associated Press that the city offered the settlement during a meeting Monday. It came a month after the state agreed to pay Collins $3 million on an unjust conviction claim. According to reports, Collins will receive approximately $667,000 per year served.

“Together, the two settlements tie for the largest amount received by a wrongfully convicted New York City defendant, matching a June settlement with one of five men wrongly convicted of the 1989 Central Park jogger attack,” Rudin said

The city’s law department said the settlement was “fair and is in New York City’s best interests.”

Meanwhile, new Brooklyn D.A. Ken Thompson’s office assured the Amsterdam News that it is working vigorously to investigate the many cases that have come under review, having already overturned the wrongful convictions of eight men in eight months.