Bronx man free after conviction overturned

April 2, 2008 8:40:33 PM PDT
Michael Clancy spent a decade behind bars for a murder he always said he didn't commit. On Wednesday, he walked out of Riker's Island as a free man.Clancy's conviction was overturned by a judge on Tuesday.

Eyewitness News reporter Nina Pineda has more.

When he was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison, Clancy said he always knew the day would come when he would set himself free. With the help of a private investigator and a lawyer, that day finally came to pass.

Clancy reminded everyone how young he was when he went to prison. He had never used a cell phone. And the last time he rode public transportation, he used a token.

As his family anxiously waited, Clancy rode the bus from Riker's Island. He didn't now how to use a metro card. And on the way to talk to the press, he hugged a nephew he hasn't seen since the boy was a baby.

"Right now, I want to focus on being a good uncle, being a good brother, being a good son," he said. "It's something I haven't had an opportunity to do in a long time."

Clancy was convicted on November 23, 1999, for the 1997 murder of John Buono inside a Bronx pizza shop.

The court's decision follows the testimony of David Prieto, a former federal informant and an eyewitness to the March 30, 1997 murder of Buono. Prieto repeatedly told various prosecutors at various points that he had information about the man actually responsible for the killing.

However, these leads were never pursued by the authorities because Prieto, convicted of murder, was facing the death penalty, prevented him from personally testifying on Clancy's behalf.

"Prieto knew everything that had happened and why it happened," Clancy's attorney, Ron Kuby, said. "He knew that Michael Clancy was completely innocent."

"I'm grateful for him," Clancy said. "And there's a lot of people who were in the situation I was in that don't have that person step forward. I'm just glad that he did."

After serving more than 10 years of hard time, Clancy says he isn't bitter or angry. He says he is just grateful the same justice system that jailed an innocent man allowed his case to be heard.

"Eleven years of my life is gone," he said. "And I won't be able to get that back...I just want to go home and eat my mom's cooking."

Assistant DA Gary Weil says his office has not yet decided whether to prosecute Clancy again, but that he does not think Prieto is believable.

Clancy's relatives posted $50,000 bail to get him out of prison, but Clancy wasn't going to get the homemade pork, rice and beans he requested. His mother said she was getting takeout, because she didn't want to waste a minute in the kitchen after being without her son for 11 years.

Prieto is in federal prison for murder and narcotics convictions, but he received no protection or shortened sentence for his testimony.