Michael Waithe, 52, served time—a year and a half of a possible four-and-a-half-year sentence—for a crime he didn’t commit. Through his 30-year ordeal of fighting to be cleared and the prospect of being deported, he says he never lost his faith in God.
“I had faith that God would take a stand for me. Even when I was in prison and lay awake many nights, I believed,” Waithe told the AmNews.
Waithe’s attorney, Matthew Smalls, explained to the AmNews, “Michael is unique. He never used his wrongful conviction as an excuse to not be a productive member of society.” An organizer for health care workers at Local 1199 SEIU, Waithe had his prayers answered when Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson agreed that he was a victim of a wrongful conviction. Waithe had written a letter to Thompson’s Conviction Review Unit.
“Michael Waithe is an honest man, which is why DA Thompson moved with due deliberateness to vacate the conviction, which was the first nonviolent conviction that was overturned,” a spokesperson for the DA said.
Delores Taylor admitted that Waithe, who at the time of his conviction worked as a security guard at the Prospect-Lefferts Gardens apartment complex, never burglarized her apartment. Some observers say that the original evidence used to convict Waithe did not seem plausible, even when the Appeals Court upheld his conviction.
But that’s not the worst part of this extraordinary story. Waithe had been informed by immigration officials upon returning from his native Barbados after attending his oldest daughter’s wedding that he faced deportation because of the conviction. Smalls explained that his final hearing is scheduled for June, but deportation is off the table, allowing him to become a full citizen.
Waithe continues to point to his spirituality, which allowed him to “navigate” the criminal justice system. “The inmates use to refer to me as ‘The Preacher,’” he said. He also wants to work with others who have been wrongfully convicted to feel free to come forward.
Waithe has nothing but good things to say about Thompson, and he wants to encourage him to continue to fight for “what is right.” In the meantime, he has a new bride and is looking forward to a life with his children ages 23, 16 and 11 here in New York.