BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — It’s been a long road to justice for a Buffalo man who was wrongly convicted of a double murder almost 18 years ago. The United States District Court, Western District of New York awarded Ortiz $6.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
According to Wayne Felle, attorney for Ortiz, the City of Buffalo will pay millions in damages on behalf of Detective Mark Stambach, who was found liable for fabrication, malicious prosecution and violating Ortiz’s Fifth Amendment right to self-incrimination.
“There were some dark days in this challenge, but today is not a dark day it is a glorious day,” Wayne Felle, esq. of Wayne Felle P.C., said. “It should be an example to everyone that the system does work. Full justice has been provided to Mr. Ortiz.”
Stambach has since retired from the Buffalo Police Department, but he is currently employed as an investigator at the Erie County District Attorney’s Office, which was confirmed by the spokesperson at the DA’s office.
Josue Ortiz was 23 at the time of his arrest and spent 10 years and 22 days in prison after he was wrongfully convicted in the Camacho Brother’s murders in 2004. Felle says the false confession was the only evidence against his client, so Ortiz took the plea deal and was sentenced to 25 years behind bars. He was declared innocent in 2012 and released from prison in 2014.
Ortiz then filed a civil suit against Stambach in the U.S. District Court in Buffalo in 2016. On Monday, the court sided with Ortiz and says Stambach and the City will have to pay $5 million in compensatory damages and $1.5 million in punitive damages.
“I was thinking about that justice would never be served being an innocent man in prison, but today I can say justice has finally been served,” Ortiz said at a press conference Tuesday.
Attorney Felle confirmed that the City will pay the bill in this case. Hodgson Russ LLP represented the City in the trial.
“Not only did they award him compensation for those 10 years and 22 days but they also found that punitive damages were warranted in the case against the City of Buffalo and the detective involved,” Felle added.
Felle and Ortiz commend the law enforcement officials who worked to prove Ortiz’s innocence. They say their work did not go unnoticed.
“This case is about all of the law enforcement officers who stepped up to shine the light on the truth in this case since they discovered in this investigation that my client was innocent,” Felle continued.
Ortiz never gave up. He is now working two jobs and says he is looking forward. He also encourages other innocent incarcerated persons to never give up hope because he believes the justice system will find the truth.
“I would like to enjoy life and spend some time with my wife and kids,” Ortiz added.
Three men have since been charged and convicted of killing Nelson and Miguel Camacho in 2004. The FBI Safe Street Task Force found evidence against Seventh Street Gang members Brandon Jonas, Efrain “Cheko” Hidalgo and Misael Montalvo and they were sent to prison.
Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.