MANHATTAN, New York — A man who spent nearly a quarter century behind bars for a murder that he didn’t commit filed a $100 million lawsuit on Wednesday, seeking compensation for his time behind bars.
Christian Pacheco, 42, filed in the Court of Claims Wednesday morning.
“I believed in myself that some day I was going to prove my innocence,” Pacheco said at a late morning news conference at which he and his attorney, Derek Sells, announced the lawsuit.
“The amount reflects the value of freedom,” Sells said, referring to the $100 million award request.
Pacheco was arrested in December 1995, following a fight at a bar in Brooklyn.Pacheco has always maintained that he was trying to break up the fight, and got stabbed by the men who’d been fighting, as he tried to separate them.
The brawl killed bar patron Lemuel Cruz, and injured Pacheco. He has also always insisted that he was mistakenly arrested by police at the scene, even though he did not initiate the brawl.
The $100 million being sought is nearly double the largest total compensation award ever granted in New York State to a wrongfully convicted and incarcerated person.
At least in New York, the law ensures that exonerees can get compensation.
There are no laws to ensure compensation in 15 states:Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wyoming.
Also, many of the states that have compensation laws have strict limits on how much exonerees can be paid.New York has no limits.
“He would trade that willingly for the 24 years and two months that he’s lost,” Sells said about his client’s $100 million claim.
“There is no way you can put a price to that,” Pacheco said. “Freedom is the most beautiful thing we have,I believe.”