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Exonerated Man Sues NYC For $50M

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CBS/AP
A man whose murder conviction was overturned after he spent 14 years in prison has filed a $50 million lawsuit against the city, claiming authorities mishandled dozens of cases and failed to train and supervise prosecutors.

The lawsuit filed Monday in federal court for Olmado Hidalgo seeks damages for false arrest, malicious prosecution and false imprisonment. Hidalgo, now in his 40s, returned to his native Dominican Republic after his release from prison in summer 2005.

Hidalgo was freed last year after a judge threw out his conviction, saying there was 'powerful" evidence that someone else committed the murder of nightclub bouncer Marcus Peterson in 1990.

The lawsuit claims the lead police investigator and the case prosecutor both ignored evidence that contradicted their theory of the crime, and that prosecutors did not keep records that might have proven Hidalgo's innocence, The New York Times reported in Tuesday's editions.

The lawsuit cites 27 other cases that it says reflect similar misconduct, and it suggests some problems were due to insufficient training, supervision and discipline of prosecutors.

"There seems to be a type of pattern," said Irving Cohen, Hidalgo's lawyer. "I think there's a desire to clear cases as quickly as possible. I think there's an interest, sometimes a desire, for advancement within the Police Department and maybe even the district attorney's office."

"It is much easier to put an innocent man in jail than it is to get an innocent man out of jail," Cohen said.

A spokeswoman for Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau declined to comment on the lawsuit Monday, saying prosecutors had not yet seen the court papers. A call to the office early Tuesday was not immediately returned.

Paul J. Browne, deputy commissioner of the Police Department, said he would not comment because of the pending litigation.

Hidalgo and another man, David Lemus, each spent more than a dozen years in prison for the attack on Peterson, who was shot after he and another bouncer scuffled outside the Palladium nightclub with a clubgoer who refused to go through a security check. Prosecutors have said that the clubgoer and at least one other man returned with a gun and opened fire.

James Callahan, the second bouncer involved in the scuffle that set off the attack, has testified that the fight outside the club involved neither Lemus nor Hidalgo.

Lemus also had his conviction overturned, but the district attorney decided to retry him. His trial is now scheduled for next year.