Queens court drops sentences of 3 wrongfully imprisoned men for murder of off-duty NYPD officer in 1996

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Three males who spent twenty years in jail had theirs rejected convictions in a queens court docket on Friday after the invention of recent proof.

Applause broke out like George Bell, Gary Johnson and Rohan Bolt Free males got here out of the felony court docket with their names deleted, CBS2’s Natalie Duddridge mentioned.

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The three had been wrongfully convicted of double murder in Queens and spent 24 years in jail.

“I’ve dreamed of this second for therefore a few years, for therefore a few years waking up in a jail cell trying on the bars,” Bell mentioned.

“The very first thing I did was hug my spouse so onerous. He mentioned, ‘Wait, you are hurting me,’ “Johnson mentioned.

“Being away for that lengthy is a distinct world right here right this moment,” Bolt mentioned.

In December 1996, Ira Mike Epstein and off-duty police detective Charles Davis had been killed throughout a theft try.

George Bell, Gary Johnson and Rohan Bolt (credit score: CBS2)

Bell and Johnson had been 19 and 22, respectively, after they had been arrested. Earlier than that, they didn’t know Bolt, a 34-year-old married father of 4 and a restaurant proprietor.

Bolt described his shock when the police confirmed as much as search for him.

“I used to be simply doing my enterprise and so they simply discovered me out,” he mentioned. “I left the home for my spouse to go to the shop and I by no means got here house.”

The court docket heard that not one of the males had a felony file. No bodily proof linked them to the crime.

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Lately, protection legal professionals uncovered key paperwork that had been saved secret.

“Proof that the prosecutor held, hid, fell on our lap,” mentioned legal professional Marc Wolinsky. “It proved that different males had dedicated this crime.”

“It isn’t a mistake. They knew precisely what they had been doing prematurely, “Johnson mentioned.” They’d all of the paperwork to point out precisely what they’d simply found. “

Which led Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz to analyze.

In March, the men were released for their very own recognition. They needed to wait and see if there could be a retrial or a layoff.

On Friday, all expenses had been formally dropped. The investigation is now within the arms of the Chilly Case unit.

Bell, Johnson and Bolt are tackling their new freedom in several methods.

“Bitter however, it’s important to transfer on,” Bolt mentioned.

“Ecstatic. I simply really feel good. Justice ultimately prevailed, ”Johnson mentioned.

“I maintain pinching myself and say, ‘Is that this actually true?’ I nonetheless open my fridge each day, for no purpose, simply to have the ability to open my fridge, ”Bell mentioned.

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All three mentioned they cannot wait to make up for misplaced time with their family members.

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