NYC settles wrongful conviction claim for $6.4 million

Friday, February 21, 2014

Good morning:

Frances Robles of The New York Times reported yesterday that New York City has settled a wrongful conviction claim for $6.4 million by David Ranta, an innocent man who was framed for a murder by a rogue Brooklyn detective named Louis Scarcella. Ranta served 23 years in prison and suffered a heart attack the day after he was released from prison. Fortunately, he survived the heart attack.

The crime occurred in 1990. The victim was Chaskell Werzberger, a Hassidic rabbi and Holocaust survivor who was shot in the head as he got into his car by a person who had robbed a jewelry store across the street. The robber stole his car and used it as a getaway vehicle.

The unsolved murder upset the Orthodox Jewish community that had overwhelmingly voted for the newly elected District Attorney, Charles J. Hynes. He felt pressured to solve the crime and convict the perpetrator.

Ranta was convicted by eyewitness testimony and a confession that he denied making.

Many years after the conviction, one eyewitness admitted that Detective Scarcella told him which photograph to select in a photo spread. Two other witnesses subsequently admitted they had lied in exchange for leniency in matters pending against them.

A reinvestigation of the case by the Conviction Integrity Unit of the D.A.’s office resulted in the discovery that Detective Scarcella had investigated a suspect named Joseph Astin, who was identified as the killer by an anonymous caller. However, he stopped investigating Astin after Astin died in a traffic accident and he did not submit any paperwork documenting his efforts.

Astin’s widow later claimed that Astin had committed the murder, but efforts to free Ranta were unsuccessful.

Ranta’s wrongful conviction is not the only case in which now retired Detective Scarcella used false confessions and coached witnesses to lie in order to obtain a conviction.

Kenneth P. Thompson, the new Brooklyn District Attorney who defeated Charles J. Hines last November in a landslide election due in no small part to citizen outrage about the way he mishandled wrongful-conviction complaints about Scarcella, has convened a three-person panel to review dozens of his cases.

Ranta is still planning to sue the State of New York.

22 Responses to NYC settles wrongful conviction claim for $6.4 million

  1. lady2soothe says:

    Yesterday, the Florida legislature advanced plans to expand its “Shoot First” law with a warning shot bill. HB 89 is a misguided and perverse response to the Marissa Alexander case. It would give shooters the power to show a gun and fire a warning shot while avoiding prison time but fails to actually address any of the underlying problems with the law itself, allowing further leeway to those who would seek vigilante justice.

    Florida’s behavior is irresponsible and a slap in the face less a week after the Micheal Dunn trial verdict. Tell officials ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter‬ and help us put an end to “Shoot First” laws nationwide once and for all:

  2. kllypyn says:

    Corruption seem to be rampant in our police departments. I also believe corruption played a role in the Trayvon martin case

  3. lady2soothe says:

    OT…. I know everyone here is pretty damn savvy but thought I should pass this along anyway…. My Dad got a call this morning from 415-251-3851…. When I checked it out I got this info.

    Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting.

    This article from the website tells you how to report these scams:

    IR-2013-84, Oct. 31, 2013
    WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today warned consumers about a sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, throughout the country.

    “This scam has hit taxpayers in nearly every state in the country. We want to educate taxpayers so they can help protect themselves. Rest assured, we do not and will not ask for credit card numbers over the phone, nor request a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer,” says IRS Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel. “If someone unexpectedly calls claiming to be from the IRS and threatens police arrest, deportation or license revocation if you don’t pay immediately, that is a sign that it really isn’t the IRS calling.” Werfel noted that the first IRS contact with taxpayers on a tax issue is likely to occur via mail.

    Other characteristics of this scam include:
    Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.
    Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security Number.
    Scammers spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it’s the IRS calling.

    Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.

    Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.
    After threatening victims with jail time or driver’s license revocation, scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.

    If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here’s what you should do:

    If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue – if there really is such an issue.

    If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes (for example, you’ve never received a bill or the caller made some bogus threats as described above), then call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1.800.366.4484.

    If you’ve been targeted by this scam, you should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your complaint.
    Taxpayers should be aware that there are other unrelated scams (such as a lottery sweepstakes) and solicitations (such as debt relief) that fraudulently claim to be from the IRS.

    The IRS encourages taxpayers to be vigilant against phone and email scams that use the IRS as a lure. The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels. The IRS also does not ask for PINs, passwords or similar confidential access information for credit card, bank or other financial accounts. Recipients should not open any attachments or click on any links contained in the message. Instead, forward the e-mail to

    • Thank you very much. I will also begin putting scammer numbers here, so everyone can see. They seem to come in waves. I always report them, and, I never answer, except for a while there, the numbers had Washington state area codes, and I was worried that family may be calling.

      Lately, the area codes have been- New Jersey and Ohio, I think.

      Always good to get the word out to as many people as possible, so thank you!

      • lady2soothe says:

        My pleasure… I’ve been getting a lot of Virginia calls in the last few weeks. The Do Not Call List isn’t worth the effort any more, although I keep reporting. We get somewhere between 6-8 local calls from construction/solar/lower energy & heating etc. companies daily…

        • Wow. But that IRS thing? That’s creepy. Harassment….

          • lady2soothe says:

            Fraud actually… Impersonating a federal employee

            18 U.S. Code § 912 – Officer or employee of the United States

            Whoever falsely assumes or pretends to be an officer or employee acting under the authority of the United States or any department, agency or officer thereof, and acts as such, or in such pretended character demands or obtains any money, paper, document, or thing of value, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.

            Based on title 18, U.S.C., 1940 ed., §§ 76 and 123 (Mar. 4, 1909, ch. 321, §§ 32 and 66,35 Stat. 1095, 1100; Feb. 28, 1938, ch. 37, 52 Stat. 82).
            Section consolidates sections 76 and 123 of title 18, U.S.C., 1940 ed. The effect of this consolidation was to increase the punishment for revenue officers from $500 to $1,000 and from 2 years to 3 years, and to rephrase in the alternative the mandatory punishment provision.
            This section now applies the same punishment to all officers and agents of the United States found guilty of false personation.
            Words “agency or” were inserted to eliminate any possible ambiguity as to scope of section. (See definitive section 6 of this title.) Other words referring to “authority of any corporation owned or controlled by the United States” were omitted for the same reason. (See Pierce v. U.S., 1941, 62 S. Ct. 237, 314 U.S. 306, 86 L. Ed. 226.)
            The words “with the intent to defraud the United States or any person”, contained in said section 76 of title 18, U.S.C., 1940 ed., were omitted as meaningless in view of United States v. Lapowich, 63 S. Ct. 914.

            Section 912 defines two separate and distinct offenses. The offenses are impersonation coupled with acting as such and impersonation coupled with demanding or obtaining something of value in such pretended character. False personation of an officer or employee of the United States is an element of both offenses.The Criminal Division’s recommendation is that generally in situations which involve the impersonation of a federal officer or employee, coupled with an application for credit, registration for lodging, cashing of a personal check or some other similar act, prosecution should not be initiated under the second part of 18 U.S.C. § 912 unless the subject has also pretended to be acting under color of federal authority or has expressly or implicitly suggested that the valuable thing demanded or obtained was necessary for the performance of his official duty. The basic procedure to follow when deciding whether to prosecute such cases under the second part of 18 U.S.C. § 912 is to determine whether the benefit is purported to run to the federal government or to the federal employee in his capacity as a private citizen. In the case of the latter, there should be no prosecution under the second part of 18 U.S.C. § 912. The alternatives to prosecution under the first part of 18 U.S.C. § 912 are prosecution under 18 U.S.C. § 701, § 702, and action by state and local authorities.
            In deciding whether a false personation case warrants prosecution under the first part of 18 U.S.C. § 912, it should be noted that the distinctive element of the offense under the first part of 18 U.S.C. § 912 is acting as the officer impersonated. This element requires something more than a mere false pretense. There must be some additional overt act in keeping with the pretense. Absent an overt act which is distinguishable from the pretense, prosecution under the first part of 18 U.S.C. § 912 should not be undertaken.
            Therefore, when presented with a situation in which a subject has pretended to be a federal officer or employee but has not performed an overt act which is distinguishable from the pretense itself, or has demanded or obtained credit, lodging or some similar benefit but has not pretended to be acting under color of federal authority and has not expressly or implicitly suggested that the valuable thing demanded or obtained was necessary for the performance of his official duty, consideration should be given to referring the matter to state and local authorities for their action, rather than initiating an 18 U.S.C. § 912 prosecution.

          • Oh, okay. Well, that makes total sense. So it is important to get the word out.

  4. Malisha says:

    And Hynes is a horrible criminal. He is a liar and a perjuror and a pedophile-support-team member and a vicious sonofabitch.

    • bettykath says:

      Malisha, Do you dislike this man? Your comment seems somewhat ambiguous. 🙂

      • Malisha says:

        Because I have history with Hynes. He protected a pedophile who took custody of his molested daughter away from her protective mother, and who then mistreated and molested the child so seriously that she became dangerously anorexic by the age of 9 so that she had to be hospitalized and put on an IV in order to save her life. The mother, for taking her to the hospital where they were forced to keep her in critical care for 11 days (she had to gain enough weight not to die before she could leave the critical care unit) was punished by a no-contact order. The girl got totally and horribly brain-washed by the conduct of her molester father (a physician for the Veterans Administration), Hynes, a judge in the NY Supreme Court (who actually met with her personally to assure her that her father, and not her mother, had saved her life because her mother was “narcissistic and mentally ill”), and several corrupt NY City officials who faked everything that needed to be faked to frustrate a NY Legislative investigation into the corruption that Hynes had set in place to keep this mother and child apart. The girl grew up to be a dangerous lunatic who threatens suicide to force everyone to do her bidding and who forbad her mother from coming to her wedding. She married into a family run by similar bullies, one of whom is very big in the American Enterprise Institute. They are among the most dangerous and thuggish people our country has to offer. Hynes is high in their hierarchy. He has notches all over his gun. They should all be in cells near that of FoDung. Hynes should be in the smallest.

  5. Malisha says:

    SO! Frances Robles, who started the completely false rumor that RTL had been plagued by crime (“including one other shooting”) in the year before Fogen “had to kill” Trayvon Martin, and who, when informed of it NOT only did nothing to correct the misinformation (that had been repeated over a thousand times in two weeks and that had eventually contributed to the official blessing of the murderer “protecting his turf”) but pretended to be interested in the proof (result of a FOIA) and then just stopped talking and said simply, “I’m not with the MIAMI HERALD any more” —




    ❗ ❗ ❗ ❗ ❗ ❗ :angry:

    • roderick2012 says:

      I am sure she’s taking Judith Miller’s desk, you know the one who was the stenographer for the GW Bush White House and repeated all of that false information about Iraq’s WMDs?

    • Two sides to a story says:

      Complete and total SHAME in lights on TIMES SQUARE!

  6. Rogue cops like Scarcella and rogue forensic analysts like Fred Zain in West Virginia do incalculable damage to the innocent people they convict.

    Sometimes that damage includes an execution.

    The damage they cause to the legitimacy of the criminal justice system also is incalculable.

    • texad says:

      This certainly speaks to the discussion of a few days ago on this site about the validity of crime statistics, doesn’t it? Police and others involved in the criminal justice system are so eager to close cases that they sometimes do it by any means necessary. Which then leaves the real perps on the street to get bolder and bolder. And everybody suffers.

    • racerrodig says:

      The worst part is that they get to go to work everyday with that agenda and repeat it for years and mots don’t get caught.

      In Camden NJ there were near a hundred convictions overturned recently as several cops played the same games. They planted drugs, refused most accused blood & urine tests to prove innocence. They were finally caught, fired arrested and charged but look at all the destroyed lives.

      • Malisha says:

        And when they ARE caught nothing is done to remedy the problem other than the taxpayers paying off the surviving victims if there has been a successful ten-or-more-year struggle to re-establish some kind of return to normal. NEVER a remedy other than pay-off.

    • JJ says:

      Would a rogue cop or forensic get the death penalty for their efforts towards conviction resulting in the execution of an innocent person? Their actions / false testimony resulted in wrongful death(s).

  7. Scarcella should spend the rest of his miserable lying life in prison for this.

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