'Significant Settlement' for Innocent Men Jailed 32 Years

Cleared of arson in 2015, they'll each get $15.5M
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 9, 2017 5:18 PM CST
Innocent Men Jailed 32 Years to Get $31M
William Vasquez, right, and Amaury Villalobos, second left, hug their attorneys after having their convictions overturned in 2015.   (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

After serving 32 years behind bars for arson and murders they didn't commit, Amaury Villalobos and William Vasquez are finally getting what one official calls "closure." The two men wrongly convicted following a 1980 fire that killed a mother and her five children in a Brooklyn townhouse will each receive $9.7 million from New York City, plus an additional $5.75 million from the state, NYC comptroller Scott Stringer says, per the New York Times. The pair served 32 years in prison before being released on parole in 2012. Three years later, the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office ruled the fire an accident—possibly caused by residents burning heroin—and said the owner of the townhouse, a drug dealer, had lied about the men's involvement.

"We have reached an agreement that recognizes the years these men spent incarcerated and allows them and their families closure," Stringer said in a statement Friday, noting the men's case "represents the longest period of incarceration for any conviction vacated" by the Brooklyn DA’s Conviction Review Unit. "It's a significant settlement," but "this is a case where the system completely failed these men," says Vasquez's lawyer. He tells the New York Post he hopes the money will allow Vasquez to "pick up the pieces of his life." The family of a third man, Raymond Mora, who was also exonerated of the crime following his death in prison in 1989, has not yet settled their claim with the city, reports the New York Daily News. (This man is getting just $175,000 over his wrongful imprisonment of 13 years.)

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