New York Paying $4.25M to Man Exonerated of Rape

July 2, 2010

New York state is paying a record $4.25 million in compensation to a mentally ill man in Buffalo who spent 22 years in prison for two rapes he didn’t commit, his attorney said Wednesday.

Anthony Capozzi, 53, was freed in 2007 after DNA evidence proved he wasn’t the rapist. Arrested in 1985, Capozzi was convicted of the 1983 and 1984 attacks based on the testimony of the rape victims, who picked him out of police lineups.

“There is no settlement that is large enough,” said his attorney, Thomas D’Agostino, who sought $41 million in damages in a lawsuit filed in 2008.

The wrongful imprisonment settlement negotiated by state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s office is the largest in state history.

The previous single biggest payout was $2.6 million given to Roy Brown, who was blamed for strangling a social worker in upstate New York’s Finger Lakes region in 1991. Brown served 15 years before being exonerated in 2007 by DNA evidence linking another man to the killing.

In 2003, two men wrongly convicted in the 1987 murder of a New York City cab driver received a $3.3 million settlement from the state.

The rapes Capozzi was accused of were determined in 2007 to be part of a decades-long crime spree by Altemio Sanchez, a factory worker. Sanchez drew a life sentence that year for strangling three women and raping several others since the early 1980s.

Capozzi, who authorities say looked like Sanchez years ago, always maintained he was innocent. He suffers from schizophrenia and lives now in an assisted-living center.

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