Kalief Browder (pictured) was walking home after a party in The Bronx in May 2010, when he was suddenly accused of theft.
“This guy comes out of nowhere and says I robbed him,” Browder said. “And the next thing I know they are putting cuffs on me. I don’t know this dude. And I do over three years for something I didn’t do.”
Watch a news report about Browder here:
With his family unable to afford his $10,000 bail, Browder was trapped behind bars for a crime he apparently did not commit. He is being represented by a civil rights firm in a lawsuit; the attorney claims the person who accused Browder did not even know him or if he’d actually robbed him.
“[This was] someone who did not know Kalief Browder, and simply told the police officer, ‘Officer I was robbed two weeks ago and that kid did it’, that’s where it ended. That was the identification,” said lawyer Paul Prestia.
Browder missed his sister’s wedding, his nephew’s birth and many other family occasions while he was locked up. He also contemplated suicide from all the stress he was enduring.
“I was feeling so much pain, and it was all balling in my head, and I just had to grab my head and I can’t take it,” he said.
After serving 33 months in jail, Browder was offered a plea deal in January, which he turned down.
“The judge was trying to give me time served, and she is telling me if I am not taking it and I lose at trial I can get 15 years,” he said. After rejecting the offer, he returned to prison before suddenly being released in June with no explanation, which didn’t sit well with him.
“They just dismissed the case and they think it’s all right. No apology, no nothing,” he said. “They just say, ‘Case dismissed, don’t worry about nothing’. What do you mean, don’t worry about nothing? You just took 3 years of my life.”
The 20-year-old is taking GED classes to make up for lost high school years, but he says he’s already missed out on other milestones as well.
“I didn’t get to go to prom or graduation. Nothing,” he said. “Those are the main years. They are the main years. And I am never going to get those years back. Never. Never.”
Browder sued the Bronx D.A., NYPD, New York City Department Of Corrections, a number of state-employed individuals and the city, in October.
Per the complaint, Browder was “physically assaulted and beaten” by officers and inmates while at Rikers. It also claims he was placed in solitary confinement for over 400 days and refused meals. Officers also allegedly kept him from pursuing an education.
“The city needs to be held accountable for what happened. [Browder] had a right to a fair and speedy trail, and he wasn’t afforded any of that. He maintained his innocence the entire time, and essentially got a three year sentence for that.” Prestia told the Huffington Post.