After more than a decade in prison and years on parole, a New York man wrongfully convicted of murder is finally exonerated of all charges after prosecutors dropped an 18-year-old drug charge.
Sundhe Moses, 43, was only 19-years-old when he was convicted of killing a four-year-old girl during a drive-by shooting in Brooklyn in August 1995, ABC News reported. Moses, the father of an 8-month old baby boy and a student at a local community college at the time of the shooting, was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison after he was beaten by New York police detective Louis Scarcella until he confessed to a crime he did not commit.
Moses was eventually exonerated of the crime last year, but still faced a felony charge of attempted promoting prison contraband. In 2002, he was found with a marijuana cigarette in his pocket, which contained traces of heroin, while he was serving time in prison.
“I was going back and forth to court fighting a case, again. Riding back and forth from prison to court, shackled, I can’t describe it,” Moses told the news station. “I just copped out… it’s not like I knew when I was going home.”
The 43-year-old’s lawyers, Ron Kuby and Rhiya Trivedi filed a motion earlier this year to throw out the prison contraband case, ABC News reported. On September 6, prosecutors dropped the charge based on the stipulation that if Moses had not been coerced into pleading guilty to the murder charge, he would not have been in prison to obtain the drug charge. Prosecutors dropped the case “in the interest of justice,” Kuby told the news station.
“This situation presents the extremely rare case in which the Court cannot say the defendant would have entered a guilty plea to the crime of attempted promoting prison contraband in the first degree had it not been for the conviction on the murder charge,” wrote Clinton County Court Judge Keith M. Bruno in his written decision to drop the charges.
Prior to the dismissal of the drug charge, Moses was offered a chance to plead guilty to a misdemeanor instead of a felony. However, he would still have a criminal record. Moses told ABC News he was not comfortable with that decision.
“What if I had a dream to get into politics tomorrow? A misdemeanor or not, I don’t need that on my record,” Moses said.
“As a Black person they think it’s OK to have that on your record. They don’t see it as you shouldn’t have it at all,” Moses continued. “They looked at it as ‘Just take it, you’re out, you’re free,’ but I looked at it from a whole other perspective.”
In August, a man who spent almost 30 years in prison for a rape and robbery he did not commit, reached a settlement with New York City for nearly $10 million. New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer agreed to pay Mark Denny a $9.75 million settlement to avoid a potential $50 million lawsuit against the city and the New York Police Department, according to records previously obtained by The New York Post.
Denny was only 17-years-old when he and three other men were accused of robbing a Burger King in Brooklyn in 1987. During the commission of the crime, Denny was also accused of raping an 18-year-old woman who worked at the restaurant. In February 1989, Denny was charged with rape, sodomy, robbery and coercion charges and sentenced to 57 years in prison. Despite the charges against him, Denny maintained his innocence but was denied multiple parole opportunities because he would not confess to crimes he did not commit.
In 2009, the Innocence Project took on his case and an investigation found that three other men who were charged were involved in the crime and not Denny. The investigation also discovered that Denny was at his mother’s house in Queens on the night of the robbery and rape, Essence previously reported. He was finally exonerated in December 2017.
“Mr. Denny has been waiting for this day for a very long time,” Nina Morrison, senior staff attorney for the Innocence Project, said the day Denny was exonerated. “We owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to District Attorney Eric Gonzalez and members of his conviction review unit for recognizing Mr. Denny’s innocence and taking extraordinary steps to right the wrongs that kept Mr. Denny incarcerated for his entire adult life.”
About the Author
Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.