On November 24, 2014, on the eve of his trial, Fernando Bermudez, who served 18 and a half years for a crime that he did not commit, obtained a historic $4.75 million dollar settlement of his wrongful conviction action against the State of New York under its Court of Claims Act §8-b statute. The record settlement vastly exceeds all prior settlements brought under the statute. The agreement was struck less than a week before trial and after five years of fiercely contested litigation by his attorneys, the Law Offices of Michael S. Lamonsoff, against the Attorney General’s Office for the State of New York. His award exceeds prior record settlements of $4.25 million and $3.36 million by $500,000.00 and over $1.39 million dollars respectively. The settlement sets a new precedent for New York State and paves the way for a change in the way the State treats those that are falsely convicted and unjustly imprisoned.
In 1991, Mr. Bermudez was arrested for the murder of Raymond “Dred” Blount after Blount was shot outside of a New York City nightclub. Despite having no relationship to the victim, a host of alibi witnesses, and being located miles away at the time of the shooting, the New York City Police Department and the District Attorney’s Office of New York County charged Bermudez with the murder. After his conviction, multiple witnesses came forward stating they had been coerced by the police and the assistant district attorney to falsely identify Bermudez as the killer. The wrongful conviction resulted in Mr. Bermudez spending over 18 and a half years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Mr. Bermudez never wavered in his innocence. On his 11th attempt to set aside his conviction, he finally succeeded when Justice John Cataldo overturned his conviction by clear and convincing evidence in 2009. Justice Cataldo found Mr. Bermudez actually innocent of the crime and wished for him, “…a much better future.”
Mr. Bermudez, through his attorneys at the Law Offices of Michael S. Lamonsoff, filed a Claim with the State of New York in 2010 pursuant to the New York’s unjust conviction statute, Courts of Claims Act §8-b. The statute compensates innocent persons who have been wrongfully convicted of crimes. After almost 5 years of litigation, the parties reached the historic settlement of $4.75 million dollars on the eve trial in the matter. In addition, Mr. Bermudez filed a pending federal lawsuit alleging constitutional violations by the New York City Police Department and the New York City District Attorney’s Office in their investigation and prosecution of him.
Mr. Bermudez said, “My family and I are thankful that we have finally reached a settlement with the State of New York. I thank God for giving me the strength to endure my struggle and for giving my legal team the abilities to fight on my behalf. We are extremely grateful to our attorneys for their hard and arduous work in obtaining this historic settlement. Of course, the settlement will never erase the injustice that I experienced as an innocent man in prison for 18 and a half years. The mental and physical toll, which began 23 years ago, continues for me. Past compensation for exonerees by the State have been woefully inadequate. Our hope is that this settlement will serve as a benchmark for future wrongfully convicted citizens in their fight for justice. My fight for justice continues.”