Cops Must Pay $7M to Man Freed by DNA Evidence After 26 Years

Posted April 8, 2013 in Crime Jury Awards by

Prisoner in an orange jumpsuit gripping the bars of his cell

iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Two retired cops must pay $7 million to a man they framed who served 26 years in prison for rape and murder until he was exonerated based on DNA evidence.

Anthony Caravella was a 15-year-old with an IQ of 67 when he was arrested in 1983 by Miramar, Fla., police officers, William Mantesta and George Pierson, for stealing a bike. The two officers kept him in custody for a week and he eventually confessed to the rape and murder of a 58-year-old woman, Ada Cox Jankowski.

Caravella spent 26 years in prison until a DNA test proved he was the wrong man.

Because of his mental disability, a court appointed a partial legal guardian on his behalf.

In his civil rights and police misconduct lawsuit against the officers, his attorney, Barbara Heyer, of Heyer & Associates in Fort Lauderdale, argued the officers coerced him into confessing, hid evidence that would have proved his innocence shortly after his arrest, and violated his civil rights against malicious prosecution.

Caravella, now 44-years-old, testified that he trusted Mantesta when he was arrested.

A jury found that Mantesta was mostly to blame, ordering him to pay $4 million in damages to Caravella. The jurors ordered Pierson to pay $3 million.

A third officer and a sheriff were found not liable.

Attorney Diane Cuddihy

Attorney Diane Cuddihy

Diane Cuddihy, the chief assistant public defender for Broward County who fought to free Caravella wept when the jury read its verdict.

“The relief is overwhelming that these men are going to have to pay for what they did to that boy,” she said. “It’s just so horrible what they did to a 15-year-old child. They should be in prison.”

Caravella, who works for $11 per hour in construction for his uncle, said he’s glad it’s over.

“I feel like it took a longtime but I’m just glad that everybody knows what happened – that’s what I feel good about,” he said. “I was worried. I was afraid they were going to get away with it.”

Tagged as: , , , ,