DC agrees to $16.65M settlement with wrongly convicted man

Man Who Served 27 Years in Prison for Rape and Murder Was Framed by Police

WASHINGTON (AP) — The District of Columbia agreed Thursday to pay $16.65 million to a man who spent 27 years in prison for a rape and murder he didn't commit.

The amount is about $617,000 for every year Donald Eugene Gates spent in prison. Gates was freed in 2009 after DNA evidence cleared him in the 1981 rape and murder of 21-year-old Georgetown University student Catherine Schilling. A federal jury on Wednesday found that two city police officers fabricated and withheld evidence in the case, and city officials agreed to a settlement Thursday as the jury was getting ready to decide damages in the case.

The 64-year-old Gates, who now lives in Tennessee, previously received more than $1 million from the federal government for its role in his conviction. The settlement with the city brings his total compensation to $18 million.

Gates said in a telephone interview Thursday that he was "elated" with the settlement.

"Today, justice was served, long-awaited justice was served," Gates said.

Gates said he's been dealing with medical issues and hasn't had a social life since he left prison, but he said he does go to church and that it was God who "walked with me through all those years" in prison and since then.

Of the settlement, he said: "I'm going to put it to good use, that's for sure."

A spokesman for the District of Columbia Attorney General's office, which has been defending the actions of police in the case, said the office was working on a statement.

Gates' conviction has been criticized over the years by his lawyers for a series of flaws. His conviction was based in part on the testimony of FBI hair analyst Michael P. Malone whose work came under fire in the late 1990s. Malone testified that hair from Gates matched hair found on the victim's body, which was found in Washington's Rock Creek Park. But an FBI inspector general report later found that Malone gave false testimony in another case. And the hair analysis technique he used has also been discredited.

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DC agrees to $16.65M settlement with wrongly convicted man
Kevin Richardson (L), one of the wrongly convicted "Central Park Five", takes a break with his sister Crystal Cuffee during a news conference to announce the payout for the case at City Hall in New York June 27, 2014. New York City's chief fiscal officer on Thursday signed off on a settlement that would end the decade-long civil rights lawsuit brought by five men wrongfully convicted of raping a jogger in Central Park in 1989. The size of the settlement has not been publicly disclosed but a person familiar with the matter previously told Reuters it is approximately $40 million. The figure would appear to make it the largest wrongful conviction settlement in New York history. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW POLITICS SOCIETY)
Former San Quentin death row inmate Chol Soo Lee (L) and veteran investigative journalist K.W. Lee (unrelated) visit the Martin Luther King Jr. Tomb at the MLK Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, Georgia September 22, 2007. Chol Soo Lee, who was wrongfully convicted for a 1973 San Francisco murder case and spent ten years in prison until his release in 1983, died on December 2, 2014 after complications related to surgery at age 62, according to friends. Lee's story was made into a 1989 film, True Believer. Picture taken on September 22, 2007. REUTERS/Hyungwon Kang (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW OBITUARY)
John Nolley holds one of his grandchildren, whom he had never seen, after the hearing in Fort Worth, Texas, on May 17, 2016. His sons Bryson Nolley, left, and Tavon Seaton, right, look on. (Paul Moseley/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS via Getty Images)
CLEVELAND, OH - March 1: Ricky Jackson stands for a portrait in his apartment on March 1, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. Jackson, America's longest-serving wrongfully convicted prisoner, served 39 years and was released through the help of the Ohio Innocence Project. (Photo by Ann Hermes/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images)
Jason Strong works out at his home in rural Tennessee on Monday, Sept. 21, 2015. Strong was wrongfully convicted of the death of Mary Kate Sunderlin and was sentenced to 46 years in prison. He spent 15 years in prison but was freed in May of 2015 after evidence cleared him of the crime. (Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 27: Kevin Richardson, one of the five men wrongfully convicted of raping a woman in Central Park in 1989, wipes his brow while speaking at a press conference on city halls' steps after it was announced that the men, known as the 'Central Park Five,' had settled with New York City for approximately $40 million dollars on June 27, 2014 in New York City. All five men spent time in jail, until their convictions were overturned in 2002 after being proven innocent. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 11: Yusef Salaam (left) testifies against the death penalty at a hearing before the New York State Assembly at Pace University as his mother, Sharonne Salaam, looks on. Salaam, who was wrongfully convicted of beating and raping a female jogger in Central Park in 1989, spent 15 years in prison. He was released when the real assailant confessed to the crime. (Photo by Debbie Egan-Chin/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
Free after 19 years in state prison, Harold Hall, photographed Friday at back of criminal courts building, near basement exit hes was released from without fanfare earlier this week. Hall always believed his freedom would come. He just didn't realize would spend half his life behind bars before it did. Hall, wrongfully convicted of a 1985 murder, walked free this week after Los Angeles prosecutors decided not to retry him. A federal appellate court granted him a new trial last year after ruling that Hall's due process rights were denied because police and prosecutors relied on a dubious confession and a jailhouse informant. (Photo by Spencer Weiner/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Gates' lawyers filed a civil lawsuit against the city and police in late 2010 alleging police misconduct in the case. The lawyers argued police behaved improperly in the case, including knowingly allowing a paid police informant with a criminal record give false testimony. Lawyers for the city argued police did not do anything unconstitutional, but jurors disagreed and found Wednesday that two police officers had withheld evidence and one of the men had fabricated evidence.

On Thursday, one of Gates' attorneys, New York-based lawyer Peter Neufeld, called for an audit of other murder cases that the two men worked on.

After Gates' exoneration in 2009, the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia spent over four years reviewing cases involving FBI analysis of hair and fiber evidence. The office identified more than 100 cases for review, and ultimately set aside four other convictions as a result.

In Gates' case, DNA testing was also able to determine the real killer in 2013, but that man had died the previous year.


Follow Jessica Gresko on Twitter at twitter.com/jessicagresko. Her work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/jessica-gresko

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