Wrongfully convicted man released by boro officials

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Angelo Martinez, 36, was released on a $10,000 bond at a hearing before U.S. District Court Judge John Curtin in Buffalo....

By Daniel Massey

A Brooklyn man imprisoned for a 1985 Richmond Hill murder he did not commit tasted freedom for the first time in 17 years Monday.

Angelo Martinez, 36, was released on a $10,000 bond at a hearing before U.S. District Court Judge John Curtin in Buffalo. He sat down for a steak dinner Monday night with his wife, mother and two attorneys.

“He was extremely excited,” said one of his lawyers, Oscar Michelen, in a telephone interview just before the dinner in the western New York city. “He still can’t believe it. He’s completely numb and he feels like he’s starting his life over.”

A jury found Martinez guilty of killing Rudolph Murasco, 70, on Atlantic Avenue near 110th Street outside a bingo hall, but a reinvestigation of the case conducted by the Queens district attorney’s office led State Supreme Court Justice Stephen Fisher to vacate the conviction on June 13.

Despite the dismissal of charges, Martinez remained behind bars because he was convicted in 1993 of selling cocaine to other inmates at the Southport Correctional Facility in Elmira, N.Y.

His attorneys Michelen and Mark Potashnick immediately went to work, arguing that the unjust murder conviction led to Martinez’s being classified as a career criminal. They reached an agreement with federal prosecutors and probation officials for a reduction in his sentence, resulting in Monday’s release.

Now Martinez will be resentenced and walk free on Sept. 9 as if the murder had never occurred, Michelen said.

“When he does get resentenced, he will be sentenced to less than time served, which is why the federal prosecutor agreed to bail and why the court went along with it as well,” he said.

Michelen noted that Martinez turned to selling drugs with the hope he could raise sufficient funds to hire a lawyer to reopen his case.

Martinez was sentenced to 25 years to life after a jury convicted him of the April 10, 1985 murder of Murasco outside a bingo hall on Atlantic Avenue near 110th Street. He was identified by an eyewitness as the person who committed the shooting.

A few years later, a federal prisoner with mob ties, Charles Rivera, admitted to the killing, Queens prosecutors found out

But Rivera failed an FBI-administered polygraph exam and Queens Assistant District Attorney James Quinn turned the information over to Martinez’s trial attorney, Jenny Maiola. Maiola, who was later disbarred on charges of stealing $300,000 from clients, never filed a motion to dismiss.

While looking into a separate case of a possible wrongful conviction a year ago, Quinn decided to reopen the Martinez case. Queens Assistant District Attorney Charles Testagrossa was appointed to investigate.

He reinterviewed Rivera and determined his version of the story fit in with the facts of the crime. The final piece of the puzzle came when Testagrossa found another man, Michael Marino, who told them he had driven Rivera to the bingo hall and had heard him say “I shot the old guy,” Testagrossa told Fisher June 13.

Martinez filed a $50 million lawsuit against the state in the State Court of Claims in Albany June 24, alleging it should have reinvestigated his case sooner.

After leaving court Monday, he described his mother, Gloria Viruet, as a “rock” who never lost faith in him. She visited him every month throughout his 17 years in prison.

“She kept me strong,” he told reporters.

When asked what he planned to do as a free man, Martinez said he looked forward to spending time with his family.

Reach reporter Daniel Massey by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.

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