PR Man Seeks $12 Million for Wrongful Conviction

By: David McFadden - AP Writer
By: David McFadden - AP Writer

A wrongfully convicted Puerto Rico man who spent eight months in maximum security prison for the 2005 slaying of a Canadian businessman has sued more than a dozen police officials and prosecutors for his ordeal, his lawyer said Thursday.

Jonathan Roman Rivera, ho is seeking $12 million in damages, said he prayed daily to be released from the maximum security prison where he was sentenced to 105 years for the high-profile slaying of real estate developer Adam Anhang. Roman, 26, was released in early June after another man was indicted for the murder.

"He's been trying to normalize his life, but it's been very, very hard for him," said Roman's attorney Juan R. Requena Davila. "He's been in kind of a trance, working at off-and-on jobs, just trying to get over everything."

Roman's parents and brothers are also each seeking $2 million for "great emotional pain" and "anguish and distress" in the lawsuit, which names prosecutors, investigators and the U.S. Caribbean island's former police superintendent, Pedro Toledo, as defendants.

Phone calls to Toledo and other defendants were not returned Thursday or went unanswered.

Roman was convicted of Anhang's homicide in October 2007, but was exonerated a few months later by officials for the island's Justice Department who said he had no involvement in the September 2005 slaying of the Winnipeg native.

His exoneration came more than three months after FBI investigators determined he was innocent and had been convicted despite a lack of forensic evidence. He returned to a hero's welcome in the poor La Perla district of San Juan, where he still lives with his family.

The island's Justice Department could not immediately be reached. Local prosecutors have said they investigated the case to the best of their ability and felt they had the right man at the time of Roman's conviction.

Requena alleged that police refused to properly investigate leads that would establish that Roman was not involved in Anhang's murder, which was profiled on the TV show Dateline NBC. He also charged that prosecutors failed to comply with basic due process, conspiring toward "winning the case at all costs."

A U.S. grand jury charged Anhang's Puerto Rican widow with offering another man $3 million to kill her husband in a murder-for-hire scheme. FBI investigators quickly arrested the man they believe carried out the murder-for-hire, Alex Pabon Colon, who pleaded guilty and is cooperating with investigators.

Anhang, who also served as chief executive officer of an online gambling company based in Costa Rica, was beaten and stabbed to death as he walked along the cobblestone streets of Old San Juan with his wife, Aurea Vazquez. She has been living in Italy, where she gave birth to another man's twins.

After Anhang's murder, Vazquez refused to cooperate with investigators and filed a civil suit against her late husband's family, seeking $1 million in damages and millions more from his estate. Earlier this year, a judge in Puerto Rico dismissed her suit, saying she repeatedly failed to comply with court orders and delayed her deposition too many times.

U.S. federal authorities are seeking her extradition from Italy.

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