In the wintry darkness 23 years ago on a back street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, a jewelry thief fleeing a botched robbery panicked and shot a Satmar hasidic rabbi in the head. Four days later, the rabbi, Chaskel Werzberger, an Auschwitz survivor, died. A dirty cop worked closely with a Satmer fixer, the now disgraced Leib Glaz, who brought him alleged witnesses and translated for them. An unemployed printer named David Ranta was arrested and convicted on what now clearly looks like false and tumped up testimony. More than 20 years later, the Brooklyn DA now says Ranta is innocent and should be released from prison immediately.
The New York Times reports:
In the wintry darkness 23 years ago on a back street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, a jewelry thief fleeing a botched robbery panicked and shot a Hasidic rabbi in the head.
Four days later, the rabbi, Chaskel Werzberger, an Auschwitz survivor, died of his wounds. Even in the New York City of 1990, as homicides crested at 2,245, the murder stirred grief and outrage. The “Slain Rabbi” was front-page tabloid news. Mayor David N. Dinkins traveled to Williamsburg’s Satmar enclave to sit in mourning and to offer a $10,000 reward.
The new Brooklyn district attorney, Charles J. Hynes, stood shoulder to shoulder with fur-hat-wearing Satmars, watching as they rocked back and forth and wailed as the pinewood coffin was carried out. He vowed to bring the killer to justice.
Forty detectives worked the case, soon led by the swaggering, cigar-chewing Detective Louis Scarcella. Working closely with an influential Satmar rabbi, Detective Scarcella arrested a drug-addicted, unemployed printer named David Ranta. Hasidic Jews surrounded the car that carried the accused man to jail, slapping the roof and chanting, “Death penalty!”
Mr. Ranta was convicted in May 1991 and sentenced to 37.5 years in maximum-security prison, where he remains to this day.
He is almost certainly not guilty.
This week Mr. Hynes, after a long investigation by a unit that he created to look into questionable convictions, plans to ask a state judge to release the prisoner. Mr. Ranta’s lawyer, Pierre Sussman, who conducted his own inquiry, said his client has been instructed to pack up his cell.
Mr. Ranta could walk free as early as Thursday.…
In brief, dirty cops trumped up evidence, a suspicious judge criticized one cop in particular but did not free Ranta or throw out the charges against him. Leib Glanz, the Satmar fixer who just pleaded guilty to Section 8 housing fraud funneled witnesses to that cop and translated for them. At least one hasid, a young teenage boy, now says he was told to lie by that same dirty cop. (And even though the Times does not explicitly state this, prosecutors heard the allegations against the cops but did nothing – even though those allegations were clearly true, and even though those allegations resulted in the conviction of an innocent man.)
Read all of it here.
[Hat Tip: Devorah.]