The firm and co-counsel WilmerHale filed federal lawsuits on behalf of John Walker and Darryl Boyd, two surviving members of the Buffalo Five who were wrongfully convicted of murder in 1976. The lawsuits seek a total of $224 million against the City of Buffalo, the County of Erie, and several former detectives for causing Walker and Boyd to spend a total of 50 years in prison and another 40 years on parole. The complaints allege that Buffalo detectives coerced two teenage friends of Walker and Boyd to testify falsely against them, knowing the testimony was false. The complaints further allege that the Buffalo Police Department and the Erie County District Attorney’s Office concealed powerful evidence that a neighbor of the murder victim committed the crime.
Walker and Boyd are represented by the Law Offices of Joel B. Rudin and WilmerHale. The Buffalo News reported on the filings in a front-page story here. Buffalo television channels and radio stations covered the press conference today announcing the lawsuits here, here, here, here, and here. You can read the complaints here and here.
In his capacity as vice chair of the Amicus Curiae Committee of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, on February 24, 2022, Mr. Rudin filed an amicus brief in support of the motion of Ghislaine Maxwell, the defendant in the infamous Jeffrey Epstein sex trafficking case, for a new trial due to misconduct by a juror in misrepresenting his background as a sex-crime victim. Today Mr. Rudin was quoted in a report in the Wall Street Journal on the importance of Maxwell’s post-conviction motion in safeguarding the constitutional right to a fair and impartial jury. You can read the article here. The brief, authored by leading white-collar defense attorney Abbe Lowell and edited by Mr. Rudin, is reproduced here.
On December 12, the New York Daily News reported on the law firm’s settlements, in the last five months, of three cases alleging prosecutorial misconduct by the Queens District Attorney’s Office, totaling $17.25 million. Firm principal Joel Rudin was quoted extensively in the article about the evidence our firm unearthed concerning the history of misconduct at the Queens DA’s Office and the District Attorney’s failure to discipline the responsible prosecutors. The clients who recovered include Kareem Bellamy ($8 million), Julio Negron ($6.25 million) and Rhian Taylor ($3 million). Mr. Rudin succeeded in overturning both Mr. Negron’s and Mr. Taylor’s convictions through appeals to New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, then won a complete dismissal of Mr. Negron’s case and Mr. Taylor’s full acquittal at a retrial, before bringing the successful lawsuits. Senior associate Jacob Loup, together with Mr. Rudin, led the firm’s efforts in the Negron case. The Bellamy case was handled by a team of attorneys that, in addition to our firm, included Ilann Maazel and Earl Ward at Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel and solo practitioner Thomas Hoffman.
Today the New York State Bar Association published an online article by firm principal Joel Rudin on the recent exonerations of the men convicted in 1966 of killing Malcolm X. In Reversing the Malcolm X Convictions: How It Happened, How Far We’ve Come, How Far We Need To Go, Mr. Rudin analyzes the prosecutions and wrongful convictions of Muhammad Aziz and Khalil Islam, diagnoses what went wrong in those prosecutions, and discusses how the criminal-adjudication system has improved over the past decades but still does far too little to prevent wrongful prosecutions and convictions. Read the piece here.
The New York Daily News reported today our law firm’s settlement, filed yesterday in Federal Court in Brooklyn, resolving our client Julio Negron’s wrongful conviction lawsuit for $6.25 million. Mr. Negron, a school custodian, had served nine years and nine months in prison after being falsely convicted in Queens in 2006 for attempted murder. Asked by Federal District Judge Dora Irizarry to represent Mr. Negron pro bono, firm principal Joel Rudin worked for four years, bringing actions at every level of the New York State court system, until he succeeded in convincing the New York Court of Appeals to reverse Mr. Negron’s conviction for misconduct by the prosecutor in withholding exculpatory evidence. Mr. Rudin then convinced the trial court to dismiss the entire case because of prosecutorial misconduct in the grand jury. Our firm’s civil rights lawsuit alleging police and prosecutorial misconduct is the fourth civil rights lawsuit the firm has settled against the City since May 2020 based on pervasive misconduct we uncovered by the Queens DA’s Office, as recently reported in Gothamist.
In the most recent episode of the Peabody Award–nominated podcast 70 Million, reporter Nina Sparling interviews firm principal Joel Rudin about how hard it can be to hold prosecutors accountable for their misconduct. The episode focuses specifically on pervasive misconduct by prosecutors in the Queens DA’s Office, which has been the target of numerous lawsuits filed by our firm, as discussed in a recent Gothamist article.
You can listen to the episode at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and wherever else you listen to podcasts. A transcript of the episode is also available on the 70 Million website. The interview with Joel starts at the 7:50 mark.
In a lengthy story by reporter Graham Rayman, the New York Daily News reported today on pervasive misconduct by Queens Assistant District Attorney Karen Ross that resulted in the $3 million civil rights settlement that was reached between firm principal Joel Rudin and New York City last week on behalf of the firm’s client, murder defendant Rhian Taylor. The misconduct included ADA Ross’s cover-up of witness coercion, a statement by a key eyewitness that he didn’t even see the shooting and was intoxicated during the incident, and evidence that the other principal witness was the leader of a violent gang at the time of his trial testimony. The article further reported that ADA Ross, despite her misconduct in this case, was recently promoted by the new District Attorney, Melinda Katz, to a newly-created position as head of the office’s bureau for investigating cold-case homicides, where she remains today.
The firm today settled the wrongful conviction lawsuit of client Rhian Taylor for $3 million. In 2015, firm principal Joel Rudin won the reversal of Mr. Taylor’s 2010 conviction for murder, then won his acquittal at a retrial in Queens County in 2017. Joel then led a team of lawyers from the firm in pursuing a civil rights lawsuit in federal court. Discovery in that lawsuit showed that both the case detective and the Queens D.A.’s Office had improperly withheld from Mr. Taylor and his defense lawyers an extraordinary amount of exculpatory and impeachment material which would have destroyed the case from the beginning. The settlement is one of three wrongful conviction settlements that Mr. Rudin has won from New York City in the last two years based upon evidence of systemic misconduct by the Queens D.A.’s Office under the late District Attorney, Richard Brown.
Today, in a major appellate victory for civil rights plaintiffs, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reinstated the lawsuit of our client Andrew Smalls. Adopting our arguments wholesale, the Court issued a decision that will ease the path for plaintiffs to bring federal lawsuits alleging that police officers fabricated evidence. Law360 reported on the case here.
At issue in the case, Smalls v. City of New York, was whether such a plaintiff must prove he won his state criminal case in a manner that proved his innocence. Because our legal system does not require the accused to prove their innocence, but rather puts the burden on the prosecution to prove guilt, few criminal cases are resolved with a finding of innocence. In our case, Mr. Smalls’s conviction was reversed on appeal because the police had illegally stopped him. He filed a lawsuit, and a federal jury found that the police had fabricated the evidence against him. But the federal trial judge then dismissed the case because the state appellate court had not indicated in its decision that Mr. Smalls was innocent.
In today’s decision, the Second Circuit reversed the district court. It held that there is no requirement that the underlying criminal proceedings end in a way indicative of innocence before bringing a civil rights lawsuit alleging evidence fabrication. The court agreed with us that police officers who fabricate evidence and thus corrupt the justice system must be held accountable regardless of whether the victim of such fabrication proved his innocence in the underlying criminal proceeding. In so doing, it abrogated a slew of recent opinions from district courts in the Second Circuit holding that plaintiffs alleging evidence fabrication must meet the “favorable-termination” requirement of malicious-prosecution cases.
Firm principal Joel Rudin argued this appeal back in March, after being retained by Mr. Smalls and his trial attorney, Jon Norinsberg. Mr. Rudin and associates Jacob Loup and Matthew Wasserman wrote the briefs (read the opening brief here and the reply brief here). The Circuit’s decision affirmed our interpretation of the Supreme Court’s recent holding in McDonough v. Smith, 139 S. Ct. 2149 (2019), a case in which Mr. Rudin was co-counsel.
In an article published today on the New Yorker website, veteran reporter Tom Robbins writes about the wrongful conviction of Shuaib O’Neill and, after the conviction was reversed, the ensuing civil actions that our firm brought on Mr. O’Neill’s behalf. In those lawsuits, handled by firm principal Joel Rudin and associate Haran Tae, we achieved settlements for Mr. O’Neill totaling $2.4 million. The New Yorker article gives an eloquent account of Mr. O’Neill’s ordeal, and it questions why the officer who Mr. O’Neill alleges framed him has continued to rise through the NYPD’s ranks rather than being held accountable for his repeated misconduct. The article also raises the question of why the New York City Law Department persists in defending such misconduct rather than making serious efforts to curtail it. Read the article here.