A man who was freed in 2015 after spending a quarter-century in prison for an infamous tourist killing will receive nearly $18 million in legal settlements from the city and state of New York. Lawyers for Johnny Hincapie said it marks one of the largest settlements for a wrongful conviction in New York City history, USA Today reports. The Colombian-born Hincapie was among a group of young men accused of fatally stabbing Utah tourist Brian Watkins on a subway station platform in 1990. Eighteen years old at the time and with no criminal history, Hincapie said he was coerced to confess confess to the notorious Labor Day crime. Despite recanting his false confession, as well as other exculpatory evidence, Hincapie was convicted of felony murder and sentenced to 25 years-to-life in prison. He ultimately served 25 years, three months and eight days before his conviction was dropped.
Hincapie said he hasn't lost sight of what happened to Watkins that day, calling the man's death “tragic." Attorney Gabriel Harvis, who represented Hincapie with fellow lawyer Baree Fett, credited Hincapie with pursuing his education while behind bars and for being a model inmate. Hincapie, now 50, earned his GED, associate, bachelor's and master's degrees while in prison. Harvis has said that Hincapie “suffered severe emotional and mental anguish and pain as a result of being punished for crimes he did not commit.” Under the settlements, the city will provide $12.8 million and the state $4.8 million. Nick Paolucci, spokesperson for the New York City Law Department, said the settlement “resolves a longstanding civil case involving a horrific crime. Based on the findings of the DA (District Attorney) and our review, this agreement is fair and in the best interest of all parties.”