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Man Convicted In Brooklyn Rabbi's 1990 Killing Expected To Be Set Free

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A man wrongly convicted of murdering a Brooklyn rabbi two decades ago is about to be sprung from a state prison, after serving almost his entire prison term.

Inmate David Ranta, now 58, looks a lot different now than he did when he was convicted, CBS 2's John Slattery reported. On Thursday, he's expected to have his conviction vacated.

"It tells me we were right all along. David was innocent," attorney Michael Baum said.

Man Convicted Of Killing Brooklyn Rabbi In 1990 Could Be Set Free

In 1990, Ranta was convicted of killing Satmar Rabbi Chaskel Werzberger of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The incident happened on Clymer Avenue, where a diamond courier had just driven off, eluding a would-be robber. At the same time Werzberger was getting into his car.

The rabbi became the victim of a carjacking as the would-be robber shot him, pulled him out of his car, and stole the vehicle.

Ranta, who fit the description of blonde and athletic, was arrested and convicted. But now the case has fallen apart. The defense and even the prosecution believe detectives coached witnesses, and witnesses lied. Ranta, who was sentenced to 37 1/2 years in prison back in May 1991, maintained his innocence from the beginning and since then nearly every piece of evidence has fallen apart, 1010 WINS' Carol D'Auria reported.

"They used perjured testimony, it was clear. They used a parade of crack heads and thieves to say whatever they had to to get out of their predicament," Baum said.

Isaac Abraham, who said he heard the fatal shot, is married to a cousin of the rabbi and was astounded by the vacated conviction.

"That is just unbelievable, that a botched robbery and murder because a botched prosecution," Abraham said.

Prosecutors believe the real killer died in a car crash two months after the murder. That man's wife has provided information, and other witnesses have recanted, CBS 2's Slattery reported.

So, from a courthouse that wasn't even built when he was sent off to prison, Ranta will formally be told that his 23 years behind bars were mistake.

The rabbi's family believes Ranta may not have been the gunman, but probably had some involvement.  The defense lawyer said Ranta wasn't there.

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