Twenty four years ago, Sundhe Moses was only a 19-year-old community college student and father of an 8-month-old baby, but his life changed for the worst when he was forced by a crooked former New York Police Detective to confess to a murder he did not commit.
Now 43, Moses was sentenced to 15 years to life for his alleged involvement in a drive-by shooting in Brooklyn in August 1995 that left a four-year-old girl dead and other children injured, according to ABC News.
Though Moses told the court during his trial in 1997 that Detective Louis Scarcella coerced him into confessing after beating him, he would not be exonerated of the crime until 2018. Detective Scarcella’s name has so far been linked to several wrongful conviction cases with over 10 being overturned.
Albeit successfully clearing his name, Moses still had another hurdle to jump as he was facing another charge of promoting prison contraband. This was after he was caught in possession of a marijuana cigarette with heroin traces during his fourth year of incarceration.
Moses, who initially pleaded guilty, argued that he wouldn’t have done so had he not been wrongfully convicted.
“This is so vital for a black man in America to not have a criminal record,” he told ABC News.
Moses also spoke about his experience and what was running through his mind in jail when he was facing the contraband charges.
“I was going back and forth to court fighting a case, again. Riding back and forth from prison to court, shackled, I can’t describe it,” he said. “I just copped out … it’s not like I knew when I was going home.”
When Scarcella’s crooked ways as an NYPD Detective came to light in 2013 after the first conviction that was linked to him was overturned, Moses and his lawyers, Ron Kuby and Leah Busby used that as their main argument when he faced a parole board for the second time, according to ABC News. He was subsequently granted parole in December that year.
Moses was finally exonerated in 2018 after his attorneys successfully filed a motion in 2015 requesting a new trial with the aim of overturning his conviction. With the retrial granted by the court, prosecutors opted out.
The contraband case was not closed, but Moses still held the same argument in his bid to clear himself of those charges.
“The system encountered someone who has been exonerated for a charge, but while in prison for a case they were wrongfully in prison for, they picked up another conviction,” he told ABC News. “There wasn’t any case law similar to give a judge direction on how the case should be litigated.”
Although his lawyers filed a motion seeking for the guilty plea to be thrown out early this year as he had been exonerated and was not a two-time felon, prosecutors were still adamant.
“This situation presents the extremely rare case in which the Court cannot say the defendant would have entered a guilty plea to the crime of attempted promoting prison contraband in the first degree had it not been for the conviction on the murder charge,” Clinton County Court Judge Keith M. Bruno wrote in his decision to grant the motion.
Refusing to budge, prosecutors offered Moses another deal – accept a misdemeanor charge instead of a felony, ABC News reports. He, however, refused.
“I wasn’t comfortable with that. What if I had a dream to get into politics tomorrow? A misdemeanor or not, I don’t need that on my record,” Moses said.
Prosecutors eventually decided to drop the charges on Friday in the “interest of justice,” Ron Kuby told ABC News.
“As a black person, they think it’s OK to have that on your record. They don’t see it as you shouldn’t have it at all,” Moses said. “They looked at it as ‘Just take it, you’re out, you’re free,’ but I looked at it from a whole other perspective.”