RIKERS ISLAND (PIX11) – Donald Kagan from Midwood, Brooklyn was sent to state prison nearly fifteen years ago, when he was 24 years old, convicted of murder in a non-jury trial by state judge, Frank Barbaro. Now that judge says he made a horrible mistake, and he wants to make it go away.
“I’m not angry, I’m not angry,” Donald Kagan told PIX 11 from a room at Rikers Island, where he’s being housed temporarily. “A lot of people in his position would not come forward and do what he’s doing now.”
What retired judge Barbaro is doing is asking another jurist to overturn the 1999 guilty verdict he rendered.
Barbaro testified at a special hearing last week in Brooklyn that he was biased against Donald Kagan, when the young defendant appeared in his courtroom for trial in 1999.
Kagan made the decision to have a judge decide his fate, instead of the traditional jury trial of twelve men and women.
Barbaro was a veteran politician who had spoken out about racial hatred in Brooklyn in the late 80’s. He told the New York Times recently he viewed Kagan as a bigot “who had assassinated an African-American person.”
Kagan took the witness stand and said that 22-year-old Wavell Wint tried to rob his gold chain, after a movie at the Linden Multiplex in East New York. He said he was acting in self-defense, and the gun went off during a struggle.
Judge Barbaro convicted Kagan and sent him to prison for 15 years to life. Kagan is up for his first parole hearing next year, the same year he turns 40.
“I have a lot of respect for him for coming forward,” Kagan said to PIX 11 about the elderly judge.
Kagan discussed the fact that he was carrying an illegal weapon but wouldn’t talk about any previous scrapes he had with the law. He said he was materialistic in the past, but he’s a better person now, after much soul-searching in prison. His parents are still alive, and he’s hoping the new DA coming into office, Kenneth Thompson, won’t oppose his verdict being overturned.
“This was not murder,” Kagan insisted to PIX 11. “It was self-defense.”