Man convicted of burglary nearly deported before key witness admitted she lied

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(PIX11) — After nearly 30 years of fighting to clear his name, Michael Waithe’s battle is finally over.

The 52 year old told PIX11 News, “I’m a happy man today.”

Shortly after immigrating to the US from Barbados in the mid 80s, Waithe was convicted and imprisoned for a burglary in Brooklyn.

Ultimately, he did 18 months behind bars.  Once released, Waithe was listed as a convicted felon.

Waithe says the last 29 years have been filled with anguish. “Torture. Walking, looking back.  Don’t know when you are going to get stopped.”

Waithe’s attorney, Matthew Smalls, says that the life his client envisioned once leaving Barbados never came true.

“This man came to America to live the American Dream and after a year-and-a-half he found himself living the American nightmare.”

However, Waithe felt that he had a chance to reverse the wrong after seeing Kings County District Attorney Ken Thompson overturn 11 murder convictions.

When asked if he thought the DA’s office was going to take his story seriously, Waithe, without hesitation, said, “Yes, I had faith. I saw Ken Thompson turn over a few cases, so I felt this was definitely the right time to do it.”

PIX11 News was there exclusively with Waithe as he walked into DA Thompson’s office with his family prior to his court appearance.

DA Thompson shared the story with PIX11 News as to how his investigator traveled to Georgia to track down a witness who ultimately admitted that she lied to get Waithe convicted.

“There was no question that we had vacate this man’s conviction.  The eyewitness admitted that there was never a burglary in the first place and  if there was never a burglary then Mr. Waithe should have never been convicted of a burglary,” said Thompson as he stood a few steps from framed images of men whose convictions he has overturned.

Waithe says he holds no hard feelings toward the witness who lied to law enforcement knowing that, “There is a god.  There is a god above.  She knows what she did and I guess that she will have to deal with her demons but I am glad that she can finally admit and to tell the truth today.”

However, Waithe still has another fight ahead.  He is facing the possibility of being ripped away from his family and deported to Barbados.  DA Thompson says his office will work closely with federal immigration officials to ensure that Waithe is provided with justice at every level.

Standing with an American flag over his shoulder, Thompson was asked if the justice being done is the way that he envisioned when he took office.

“Yes, because the people of Brooklyn who elected me, elected me to do justice and now we have a man who was wrongfully convicted facing deportation who will now his conviction vacated and now will be able to remain in this country to pursue the American dream.”

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