A man in New York who was wrongfully imprisoned has filed a lawsuit against New York City as well as two detectives this week, seeking $50 million in damages at least.
The man, Thomas Malik, said in his lawsuit that “a wanton and reckless” culture of law enforcement resulted in him being subjected to wrongful imprisonment for decades that caused him to suffer massive psychological damage.
Along with two other people, Malik was found guilty of the 1995 murder of a subway token booth clerk, and then spent almost 30 years behind bars. Just last year, though, prosecutors disavowed him of the three convictions levied against him for the death of Harry Kaufman.
In the suit against the city, Malik’s lawyers, Rhidaya Trivedi and Ronald Kuby, wrote:
“Malik seeks redress for the official misconduct that caused him to spend nearly 27 years in prison, and the mental and physical injuries he sustained while incarcerated.”
The Law Department for New York City said it was reviewing the suit that Malik filed. His co-defendants in that case, James Irons and Vincent Ellerbe, are also seeking compensation for their wrongful convictions.
The 1995 incident was an attempted robbery that happened as Kaufman was working overnight at a subway station in Brooklyn. The attackers set him ablaze by pouring gasoline on into the coin slot of the tollbooth and then igniting it with matches.
The murder made national headlines, with some politicians even called for people to boycott the “Money Train” movie, which had a scene that was similar to the crime and was released just a few days before the attack happened.
Last year, though, the District Attorney’s office in Brooklyn concluded that the convictions of the three men were all built on confessions that were both contradictory and false. The three men have always held that law enforcement coerced them into making the confessions.
There was a lot of other flawed evidence that was used to convict Malik, including information that a jail informant told prosecutors as well as something that another witness said.
Two of the detectives in that case, Louis Scarcella and Stephen Chmil, are both retired now, but have been repeatedly accused of forcing confessions on suspects and framing people for crimes they didn’t commit.
More than 12 convictions that Scarcella secured through his work have since been overturned.
Scarcella said he didn’t do anything wrong in the case, though. The lawyers representing the two former detectives declined to issue a comment to ABC News about the lawsuit. They are both directly named in the suit.
The lawsuit states that because the case was so public, Malik – who was 18 years old when he entered prison – was a target for assault and abuse while he was behind bars.
At 46 years old, Malik is free from prison. He’s married and doesn’t live in New York any longer.
But, the years he spent in prison left many psychological scars with him, and he has trouble leaving his house as a result, the suit says.