The New York Daily News by Thomas Zambito - December 24, 2009
Abdullah Wilson, who served nearly 10 years for robbery he says he didn’t commit, is suing Long Island City scrap metal shop owner Roger Erra, whose testimony helped send Wilson to prison. Related NewsNun's group finds homes for former inmates & their kidsAshanti stalker Devar Hurd found guilty; sent naked photos of self to singer's momCrooked Brooklyn judge Gerald Garson leaves halfway houseRadical lawyer Lynne Stewart should get even more prison time, federal appeals court saysBronx pub owner owes $3 million in taxesAfter spending 9-1/2 years in prison for a stickup he says he didn't commit, Abdullah Wilson is out to make his accuser pay. Trouble is, the victim isn't buying Wilson's innocence. Wilson's 1995 conviction for the gunpoint robbery of a Long Island City scrap metal dealer was tossed out in August by federal appeals judges. Queens prosecutors then dismissed the charges in October. Buoyed by his victory, Wilson, 45, this week sued scrap metal dealer Roger Erra for $20 million in Queens Supreme Court, contending Erra lied on the witness stand when he fingered him as the thief. "I don't want what happened to me to happen to somebody else," Wilson said. "I want to clear my name." Erra labeled the lawsuit a money grab by an out-of-work ex-con. Erra said he took the legal papers Wilson dropped off at his business and "threw them right in the garbage." "They're not legal tender," Erra fumed. "I know he's the guy. He robbed me. What he's trying to do is extort me." Wilson says he was in Pennsylvania laying carpet at the time of the Dec. 22, 1992, holdup and produced an alibi witness at trial to confirm his whereabouts. At the time, he was getting his life back on track after convictions for drugs, weapons possession and chain snatching. "I was no angel," he said. "I took the easy way out and I paid for it. But I had given the stuff [drugs] up in the early '90s. I had lost everything that was dear to me."
Wilson served his sentence for the robbery and was released from prison in 2005. But he continued to press legal efforts to throw out the conviction with the help of lawyer Erik Bierbauer. A break came last summer in the decision written by Manhattan Federal Appeals Court Judge Jose Cabranes, who had harsh words for Wilson's defense attorney. "The record indicates that defense counsel misinterpreted and misunderstood the law, failed to pay attention, acted recklessly and did not appreciate the consequences of his actions, even though in many cases he was explicitly warned of the risks by the trial court," Cabranes wrote. The late Queens Supreme Court Justice Charles LaTorella flagged what he considered lawyer Francis GaNun's mistakes during the trial. LaTorella wondered why, for instance, GaNun would allow jurors to see a mug shot of Wilson as well as a police report citing his alleged role in a 1994 construction shakedown. "All I'm going to say to you is, I would not let the jury see this in 10 million years," LaTorella said. GaNun, 75, has since retired. A woman who answered the phone at his home declined to put him on the line. firstname.lastname@example.org