It was a sensational case, and it appeared to be a slam dunk for prosecutors. Back in 1975, two men in Brooklyn were arrested and charged with kidnapping 21-year-old Samuel Bronfman, an heir to the Seagram Company fortune. The two suspects, Irish immigrants named Mel Lynch and Dominic Byrne, confessed, which wasn't too surprising at the time: Bronfman was found bound and blindfolded in Lynch's apartment after nine days, and Lynch was there, too. The men were essentially caught red-handed, writes Alex Traub in the New York Times. In an astonishing turn, however, both were cleared of kidnapping charges at trial. Now, a "deathbed confession" from Byrne attorney Peter DeBlasio—along with corroborating reporting by Traub—suggests they were indeed guilty all along. Both of the alleged kidnappers are now dead.
It's a convoluted tale. At trial, Lynch stunningly declared that Bronfman had engineered his own kidnapping to get money from his family. He also alleged that he and Bronfman were lovers. After seeing how convincing Lynch was in court, DeBlasio shifted strategy for his own client, Byrne, and went along with the story of the hoax kidnapping. It worked. Last year, however, DeBlasio published a memoir months before his death. "I want it to be clear to all who may ever read these pages that Samuel Bronfman was not a part of the kidnapping," he wrote. Also, "neither he nor Lynch were gay as far as anyone ever knew and certainly they were not lovers." The Times reached out to Bronfman about DeBlasio's big reveal. "I was really kidnapped in 1975 and his and Lynch's defense was a fraud," he wrote in an email. "I am glad he acknowledged this fact." (Read the full story.)