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Old 04-05-2008, 09:35 AM   #1
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Default Anthony Capozzi sues NY for 41 million

By Maki Becker - News Staff Reporter
Updated: 04/04/08 8:27 AM

Anthony J. Capozzi, who spent nearly 22 years behind bars for two rapes in Delaware Park that the Bike Path Killer had actually committed, is suing the state for $41 million, his attorney said Thursday.

“It’s for the pain and suffering of having spent 21 years, seven months and 22 days in prison for something he didn’t do,” said Thomas C. D’Agostino.

Capozzi’s suffering was exacerbated by the fact that he has schizophrenia, which he was diagnosed with in the 1970s, his lawyer said. He explained that Capozzi’s condition worsened as he lingered in prison without proper mental health care year after year.

The money Capozzi is asking for would also cover future medical costs as well as lost wages and other economic factors, D’Agostino said.

The lawsuit is expected to be filed today in the State Court of Claims in Albany.

D’Agostino said he hopes Attorney General Andrew Cuomo will not oppose the suit.

“I certainly would like to see it resolved to spare Anthony and his family of having to go through a trial and reliving all of this,” he said.

D’Agostino also hopes that legislation signed into law last year inspired by Capozzi’s case and dubbed “Anthony’s Law,” which was aimed at expediting wrongful conviction suits, will help move the case along quickly. Past suits for wrongful conviction have lingered in the court system for years.

Capozzi was arrested Sept. 13, 1985, on charges that he raped three women in Delaware Park.

His family members didn’t believe he was capable of harming anyone.

But after the victims took the stand during the trial and identified him as their rapist, he was convicted on two of the rapes. He was acquitted of one.

In truth, the women had been raped by Altemio C. Sanchez, a serial rapist and killer who preyed on women throughout Erie County for nearly three decades.

In the mid-1980s, Sanchez and Capozzi bore a striking resemblance. Both men had dark hair and a dark mustache, although Capozzi had a three-inch scar on the side of his face. None of his victims mentioned the scar.

Capozzi was sent to Attica Correctional Facility, while Sanchez remained free. Sanchez went on to rape another seven women and killed three more before he was caught.

In late 2005, Capozzi was still in prison when a law enforcement task force searching for the Bike Path Killer came across old records that indicated Capozzi could be innocent. The rapes he was convicted of matched a pattern of rapes that the Bike Path Killer had committed.

Task force members visited him at Attica. They became even more convinced of his innocence as they talked to Capozzi, who has a child-like aspect and seemed more interested in making sure he didn’t miss “spaghetti night” than discussing his case with the detectives.

After Sanchez was arrested last January, the task force turned its attention to freeing Capozzi.

Last March, slides from rape kits performed on Capozzi’s alleged victims turned up at Erie County Medical Center. DNA tests on the slides proved Sanchez — not Capozzi — had raped the women in Delaware Park.

Exactly a year ago Thursday, Capozzi was freed from prison. He was transferred to the Buffalo Psychiatric Center to help him transition back to normal life.

“I never meant any harm to anybody. What did they get me for — being strange?” said Capozzi last April as he celebrated his first home-cooked Easter meal in decades.

But he was thrilled with his return to freedom. “I’m grateful for the chance to live again,” he said that day.

These days, he spends most of his time in an assisted living facility but for a couple of days a week, he is with his parents and siblings.

“He’s coming along,” D’Agostino said. “But it’s taking time. For someone to live in that situation for nearly 22 years of their life . . . For someone who didn’t have a disability to come out and start his life over would be an adjustment — a monumental adjustment. So just imagine what it’s like for him.”

Last week, Lynn DeJac, now known as Lynn Peters, filed a $14 million lawsuit for her wrongful conviction in the strangulation murder of her daughter.

Peters had spent nearly 14 years in prison before a series of events led to her release. She was exonerated after Erie County District Attorney Frank Clark announced that a new analysis of her daughter’s autopsy showed she had died of a cocaine overdose — and had not been murdered.

Peters maintains that her daughter was murdered by an ex-boyfriend, Dennis P. Donohue, who has been charged with the strangulation of another woman in an unrelated case.
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Old 04-05-2008, 12:17 PM   #2
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Thanks for posting that, boco357. I remember watching the Dateline special about this case and feeling very sorry for Capozzi. It was apparent, in my opinion, that he was innocent.
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Old 01-09-2009, 06:06 PM   #3
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Just saw this one again today. The scetches of Altemio Sanchez always creeped me out. Especially the one of him with the real dark eyes.

I didn't realize until today that someone else had served 21 years for those crimes. That's awful!
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Old 01-09-2009, 06:34 PM   #4
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No amount of money can make up for losing almost 22 years of life. But I hope he wins big! He deserves to enjoy the rest of his life as best he can.
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