A Colombian native who was freed in 2015 after spending a quarter-century in prison accused of killing a tourist will receive nearly $18 million in legal settlements from the city and New York state, his lawyers confirmed Friday.
Johnny Hincapie’s attorneys say it represents one of the largest wrong-doing settlements in New York City history.
Hincapie was one of a group of youths accused of stabbing Utah tourist Brian Watkins to death in 1990. Hincapie, who was 18 at the time and had no criminal record, said he had been coerced into falsely admitting to the crime on Labor Day.
Despite the fact that he retracted his false confession, and other exculpatory evidence was presented, Hincapie was convicted of premeditated murder and sentenced to 25 years in prison and life imprisonment. He was jailed for 25 years, three months and eight days before his guilty plea was overturned.
In a statement released Friday, Hincapie said he hasn’t lost sight of what happened to Watkins that day, calling the man’s death “tragic.”
“I have never forgotten the loss his family has suffered,” he said. “I am fortunate that my innocence has finally been recognized by my city and state, and I look forward to a new chapter in my life with my family.”
Attorney Gabriel P. Harris, who assisted Attorney Bury N. Fatt, recognized Hincapie for continuing to educate himself while behind bars and being a model inmate. Hincapié, now 50 years old, earned his high school certificate, his bachelor’s degree, his bachelor’s degree and his master’s degree while in prison.
“He’s really the latest victim in this case because it took them a long time to finally admit that he was innocent,” Harris told The Associated Press. He said that the legal settlement for that large amount was “an acknowledgment of (his client’s) innocence and his qualities as a person.”
Harris previously said that Hincapie “suffered intense emotional and mental pain and suffering as a result of being punished for crimes he did not commit.”
Harris said Hincapie now lives in Florida with her family and two young children.
Under the court settlement, the city would contribute $12.8 million and the state $4.8 million. Nick Paolucci, a spokesman for the New York City Law Department, said in a statement that the settlement “resolves a long-running civil matter involving a heinous crime. Based on the district attorney’s findings and our review, this settlement is appropriate.” and is in the best interests of all parties.”