Man wrongfully imprisoned for 27 years seeking judgement against former LIRR detectives

Kristin Thorne Image
Wednesday, May 3, 2023
Man wrongfully imprisoned seeks judgement against ex-LIRR detectives
Man wrongfully convicted spent over 20 years in prison and is now seeking justice against those he believed framed him.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- A Queens man who spent nearly three decades in prison for a murder he didn't commit recently won a $10 million judgement from New York City and the NYPD and is continuing his fight for justice by pursuing a lawsuit against two former Long Island Rail Road detectives who he believes helped put him behind bars.

Felipe Rodriguez has filed a malicious prosecution claim and other claims against former LIRR detectives Charles Wendel and Thomas Sullivan.

"I lost a great deal of the best years of my life," Rodriguez said in an exclusive interview with Eyewitness News investigative reporter Kristin Thorne. "I wasn't allowed to be a good dad for my son."

Rodriguez was convicted of the 1987 murder of a woman whose body was found on a LIRR property in Glendale.

In 2017, after serving 27 years behind bars, Rodriguez was freed and the Queens District Attorney later vacated his murder conviction.

Rodriguez won a $5 million judgement from New York State for his wrongful imprisonment.

In 2021, Rodriguez filed claims against the MTA, New York City, five former NYPD officers and Wendel and Sullivan.

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Last month, the city settled for $10 million.

A judge dismissed Rodriguez's lawsuit against the MTA.

Wendel and Sullivan are continuing to fight Rodriguez's lawsuit.

"They were present and involved in the manipulation of witnesses and line ups in order to falsely convict Felipe Rodriguez," Zachary Margulis-Ohnuma, Rodriguez's lawyer, said.

Eyewitness News reached out to the MTA, as well as the lawyers for Wendel and Sullivan, but they said they would have no comment.

In a March 17 letter to the judge, the lawyers for Wendel and Sullivan wrote, "There is no evidence that Wendel or Sullivan fabricated evidence against Plaintiff."

In a video deposition, Sullivan said he was not aware of any lineups that were conducted on the day Rodriguez was brought into the precinct. Although Eyewitness News obtained an LIRR police memo dated March 29, 1989 in which Sullivan wrote about a lineup being conducted two days before when Rodriguez was taken into custody.

Wendel said in his deposition that he recalled Rodriguez talking to officers in the precinct, but eventually Rodriguez requested a lawyer.

"That was the end of my involvement," Wendel said.

"Sullivan and Wendel claim they don't remember anything about it," Margulis-Ohnuma said. "But, they're all over the paperwork at the interviews, interrogations where those false statements came to be so we feel that we can prove that they were responsible for making, fabricating evidence."


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