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Man acquitted of Josette Wright’s murder is suing Putnam County for systematic misconduct

Andrew Krivak, the man acquitted in a new trial this year after serving more than two decades for the rape and murder of 12-year-old Josette Wright, filed a federal civil rights suit Tuesday over years of misconduct by investigators and prosecutors of Putnam Sheriff in the case.

The lawsuit accuses investigators and their bosses of framing Krivak and ignoring early evidence that indicated sex offender Howard Gombert was Wright’s probable killer. Current District Attorney Robert Tendy and his predecessor in the 1990s, Kevin Wright, and three of their assistants are charged with a pattern of “conscience shocking” misconduct, including withholding evidence favorable to Krivak, the encouraging perjury and intimidating witnesses to testify falsely.

“The defendants’ blatant misconduct and failure to conduct a constitutionally adequate investigation by following multiple leads pointing to the true perpetrator – serial rapist Howard Gombert – enabled Mr. Gombert to remain unpunished and continue to rape other women and young girls, while an innocent Mr. Krivak spent his adult life unjustly in jail,” the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in White Plains, alleges.

Andrew Krivak, surrounded by his lawyers, listens as a jury acquits him of the rape and murder of 12-year-old Josette Wright at Putnam Court on February 27, 2023. Krivak was retried after a judge overturned the original convictions he brought 24 years in prison.

Tendy, who is running for a third term unopposed this year, had not yet reviewed the lawsuit and had no immediate comment.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages against Putnam County, the former prosecutors and their assistants, the then sheriff, six investigators and the key trial witness for claims including malicious prosecution, deprivation of liberty, civil rights conspiracy and willful disregard for constitutional rights through the acts and omissions of prosecutors and investigators.

Key witness account discredited by defense

Josette Wright, no relation to the former district attorney, disappeared in Carmel in early October 1994, and her remains were discovered 13 months later in a wooded area off Fields Lane in Patterson. Krivak and his friend, Anthony DiPippo, were arrested in July 1996, based primarily on an account by another teenager, Denise Rose, who made a statement claiming to have witnessed Krivak and DiPippo rape Wright in the back of the van from Krivak’s father and then dumped the car. body in the forest.

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The two were convicted of manslaughter and rape after separate trials in 1997. DiPippo’s first conviction was overturned in 2010; he was convicted again in 2012 and that conviction was also overturned because he was not allowed to produce evidence of Gombert’s probable involvement. He was acquitted by a third jury in 2016 and subsequently settled a lawsuit with Putnam County for $12 million.

Rose’s account has long been discredited by the defense as the product of a troubled teen who used details provided to her by investigators while trying to avoid her own criminal charges. Because there was no physical evidence linking the defendants to the crime, her story was trusted by juries in the first three trials, but rejected in the last two.

Trial testimony included that the van in question was on cinderblocks and not operational in the fall of 1994.

Krivak’s case differed from DiPippo’s because after being questioned by Detectives Patrick Castaldo and William Quick in July 1996, Krivak signed a statement written by Quick that believed himself to be involved in the rape. Krivak always claimed it was a false confession after being subjected to a coercive lie detector test conducted by senior investigator Daniel Stephens, the department’s polygrapher following the mantra GTC – Get The Confession.

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Neither the interrogation nor the lie detector test were recorded.

Other misconduct allegations cited in the lawsuit include:

The role of Deskovic

Krivak was not given a new trial until 2019 after his conviction was overturned on evidence related to Gombert. The following year he was released on bail.

Krivak is represented in the lawsuit by his trial attorneys, Oscar Michelen and Karen Newirth, along with Jeffrey Deskovic, who became an attorney after serving 16 years for his wrongful conviction in the rape and murder of a Peekskill High School classmate.

Deskovic was acquitted in 2006 after a DNA match led Westchester prosecutors to Angela Correa’s actual killer.

He won a $42 million jury verdict against Putnam County because it was the same polygraph examiner, Stephens, who helped Peeksill detectives get Deskovic’s false confession. A pre-trial settlement limits the award to $10 million.

Krivak has also sued New York in state court for wrongful imprisonment. A $5.72 million settlement reached in that case is awaiting court approval, Michelen said.

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Krivak’s federal lawsuit does not specify what monetary damages are sought. But Krivak’s lawyers have suggested in recent years that Putnam’s exposure in his lawsuit would be greater than in the other cases. They pointed to the extent of the misconduct by county employees and that Tendy should have conceded a losing prosecution once DiPippo was acquitted, but instead sent Krivak to four years behind bars and an additional two years under house arrest awaiting retrial.

Lawsuit also targets Sheriff’s Office

The lawsuit also names then-Sheriff Robert Thoubboron and his chief criminal inspector, Howard Turner, accusing them of being aware of or “deliberately blind to” the misconduct of Castaldo, Quick, and Stephens.

Reached by phone, Thubboron said he was unaware of the lawsuit and would wait to hear details from county attorneys. He declined to comment, but said he had expected to be named as the highest-ranking official in the sheriff’s office at the time.

The lawsuit highlights how Tendy not only chose to move forward to a new trial, but also ended cooperation with his agency with a re-examination of the case by the Attorney General’s Office of Conviction Review, which had significant issues found with the prosecution of Krivak and DiPippo. That investigation was requested by Tendy’s immediate predecessor, Adam Levy.

Although Krivak was upheld at trial this year, the lawsuit claims he continues to suffer from civil rights violations by detectives and prosecutors.

“Mr. Krivak spent his entire adult life wrongfully imprisoned and convicted of the rape and murder of a child,” the lawsuit said. “Mr. Krivak is now seeking accountability and redress for the misconduct that has cost him his entire adult life, and a public record to help protect others from wrongful conviction.”

This article originally appeared on Rockland/Westchester Journal News: Krivak Files Wrongful Conviction Lawsuit in Josette Wright Case

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