NYC faces $50M lawsuit as man wrongfully convicted in 1995 subway murder seeks justice

A man recently acquitted of the gruesome 1995 murder of a subway token clerk has been left with serious scars after being wrongly imprisoned for decades due to a “reckless and reckless” law enforcement culture. On Monday, he filed a lawsuit against the city of New York and two detectives, accusing him of injuring him. psychological damage.

Thomas Malik, who is seeking at least $50 million, is one of three people who spent decades in prison until prosecutors last year denied all three convictions in Harry Kaufman's death.

“Mr. Malik is guilty of official misconduct that led to him spending approximately 27 years in prison, as well as the mental and physical injuries he suffered while incarcerated,” attorneys Ronald Kuby and Ridaya Trivedi wrote in the lawsuit. We are seeking redress for this.”

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The city's legal affairs bureau announced it would review Malik's lawsuit. His former co-defendants Vincent Ellerbe and James Irons are also seeking compensation.

Thomas Malik listens to a conversation with the press after his acquittal hearing at Brooklyn Supreme Court in New York on July 15, 2022. Malik is suing the city of New York and two former detectives, alleging that he was wrongfully imprisoned for decades and suffered significant psychological damage due to an “unreasonable and reckless” law enforcement culture. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews, File)

On November 26, 1995, Kaufman, 50, was working the night shift at a Brooklyn subway station when he was set on fire during an attempted robbery. The attacker sprayed gasoline into the coin slot at the toll booth and ignited the fuel with a match.

This tragic murder became a national topic of discussion. Then-Senate Majority Leader and Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole called for a boycott of the movie “Money Train,” which was released days before the attack and contained similar scenes.

The Brooklyn District Attorney's Office concluded last year that Malik, Irons and Ellerbe's convictions were based on false and contradictory confessions (the men have long said they were coerced) and other flawed evidence.

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Prosecutors said in a report last year that Malik was identified as a person identified in questionable procedures and as a witness who had previously persistently identified another suspect but was removed by police. Malik was also implicated by a prison informant, who was later found to be highly prone to lies, and the court ruled that this man should no longer work as an informant. Forbidden.

Former detectives Stephen Chmill and Luis Scarcella played key roles in the investigation, with Chmill serving as lead detective and Scarcella obtaining evidence, including Malik's confession.

The partners, now retired, have been repeatedly accused in recent years of coercing confessions and framing suspects. More than a dozen convictions were overturned in Mr. Scarcella's case, but prosecutors upheld numerous others.

The former detectives deny wrongdoing. Their attorneys declined to comment on Malik's lawsuit, which names them along with the city as defendants.

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The lawsuit alleges that a “culture of recklessness” between police and Brooklyn prosecutors at the time allowed them to violate citizens' rights with impunity, and it cost Malik dearly. claims.

The notoriety of his case led to him arriving in prison at age 18 and becoming a target for abuse and assault, according to his lawsuit.

Malik is now free, 46 years old, married and living out of state. However, the effects of prison left him mentally scarred, and he could hardly leave the house, remembering his legs being shackled just by wearing a seatbelt, and suffering from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. , the lawsuit said.

Mr. Ellerbe settled the case with the city auditor for an undisclosed amount, said Mr. Kuby, who also represents Mr. Ellerbe. Irons' attorney, David Chanise, said Irons is pursuing a federal lawsuit and filing a lawsuit in the state Court of Claims.