July 24, 2021

Caribbean immigrant wrongly jailed – now released

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jail-releaseBy Tony Best From New York Carib News

For the first time in decades a Caribbean immigrant who spent almost two years in a New York State prison for a crime that never happened is free to pursue his life without fear of being deported to Barbados.

And Michael Waithe, 52, the father of four children, who was convicted for felony robbery charges almost 30 years ago, is thanking Ken Thompson, Brooklyn’s new top prosecutor, for clearing his name and ensuring that he doesn’t have a criminal record which could lead to his deportation.

“I feel like the guillotine has been lifted from over my head,” Waithe told
a New York paper before he went into a Supreme Court a few days ago and heard a judge toss out his conviction, expunging it from the man’s record which is now clean of any involvement with the law.

As the Brooklyn District Attorney sees it understands the West Indian’s feel- ings.
“I think Mr. Waithe has already suffered enough for a crime he didn’t commit,” said the DA, whose Conviction Review Unit

investigated the circumstances behind the West Indian’s incarceration and found the case was built on a back of life.”(He) was convicted for felony robbery charges and spent almost two years in jail for a crime that never happened,” charged the DA in a statement.

“This hardworking and innocent man came to our country for a better life and ended up being framed and went to prison for a crime he didn’t commit,” added Thompson. “He now faces being ripped apart from his family, including his three beautiful children and grandchildren. Wrongful convictions lead not only to wrongful imprisonment but can impact a person’s job, housing and immigration status.”The Unit whose probe led to the man’s exoneration was created last year shortly after Thompson took office. So far, its work has uncovered several cases of murder for which Blacks were not only wrongfully accused but were convicted and locked up, some for decades. Waithe’s exoneration was the first non-homicide case uncovered by the Unit.

“Mr. Waithe is the victim of a wrongful conviction. I wouldn’t let him be a victim of a wrongful deportation,” added Thompson, the first Black person elected to

the DA’s position. “We’ll correct miscarriages of justice no matter when they occurred.”

Actually, the case dates back to
the 1980s when Waithe, then a 23 year old green-card holder and a security guard in a large Brooklyn apartment building was accused by a tenant of allegedly trying to steal her television set. Although Delores Taylor, the man’s accuser, was the lone eyewitness to the alleged crime and there were no other witnesses to back up her story, the jury found Waithe guilty anyway. That happened despite the absence of his fingerprints at the scene and that the West Indian took witnesses to support his contention that he was innocent and vouch for his character.

The DA said his investigators who interviewed Taylor were able to get her to admit she made up the story of the theft to get back at the Barbadian whom she had also falsely accused of stealing her car.

To make matters worse when Waithe appealed the verdict, an appeals court upheld his conviction. A judge on the panel said the conviction couldn’t be justified on the basis of the evidence.
“I came to believe that the verdict in this case was against the weight of the evidence,” Richard Brown, the dissenting judge who is now the Queens District attorney.

The matter ended up before the Conviction Review Unit after Waithe wrote to Thompson asking him to look into his case.
But the West Indian’s troubles didn’t end there. When he returned to New York
from Barbados in 2011 after attending his daughter’s wedding, immigration officials found he had been convicted of a felony which made his liable for deportation and they started proceedings to send him back to Barbados. His lawyer, Matthew Smalls said his next hearing before an immigration judge was set for June.”This case is troubling because it shows what can happen to innocent people,” Smalls, the attorney for the wrongfully convicted man, told the Carib News. With the conviction tossed out, Waithe no longer faces deportation and he plans to marry his girlfriend next week in New York City and the DA plans to be at the wedding.
“It gives me concern how someone can be convicted without corroboration,” said Thompson.

For more on this story go to: http://www.nycaribnews.com/news.php?viewStory=4864
IMAGE: inlightofhisword.wordpress.com

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