Tankleff Settles Wrongful Imprison Case for $3.37M

, New York Law Journal

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Martin Tankleff, who spent more than 17 years in prison before his convictions for murdering his parents were vacated, settled his unjust conviction and imprisonment lawsuit against New York State for $3,375,000.

The settlement between Tankleff's attorneys and the state Attorney General's Office was announced Tuesday, averting a trial in the Court of Claims that had been scheduled to start on Jan. 6. Instead, a stipulation of settlement and discontinuance in Tankleff v. State of New York, 118655, was signed on that day.

The settlement does not affect Tankleff's federal civil rights action against Suffolk County and various county law enforcement officials, which remains pending in the Eastern District.

"I'd like to thank my family and friends who have stood by me for the past twenty-five years. I am looking forward to my federal trial, where I hope to expose the misconduct that caused my wrongful conviction so that it does not happen to anyone else," Tankleff said in a statement.

One of Tankleff's attorneys, Barry Scheck of Neufeld Scheck & Brustin, said in a statement, "We have developed powerful new forensic evidence demonstrating Marty's innocence and showing that his parents were murdered by assailants who acted with efficiency and brutality."

Melissa Grace, a spokesperson for the office of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, confirmed the settlement. She said that it resolves the case on behalf of the state but declined to comment further.

The settlement is rooted in the 1988 murders of Seymour and Arlene Tankleff, who were beaten and stabbed in their Belle Terre home. Tankleff said when he woke up, he found his mother dead and his father alive but unconscious. He administered first aid to his father and called 911, but his father died.

When later interrogated by police, Tankleff, then 17, asserted that his father's business partner, Jerry Steuerman, was responsible for the crime but then asked if he could have "blacked out and done it" or been "possessed." He then confessed to the crime, but almost immediately recanted.

Relying heavily on the disputed confession, Suffolk County prosecutors obtained convictions in 1990 against Tankleff for the intentional murder of his father and the depraved indifference murder of his mother. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison but continued to assert his innocence.

In 2003, Tankleff's attorneys pressed a Criminal Procedure Law 440 motion that offered independent testimony from more than a half dozen witnesses who implicated either Steuerman or Joseph "Joey Guns" Creedon, an acquaintance of Steuerman's son.

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