Martin Tankleff received a $3.375 million settlement in January 2014 as a result of a wrongful imprisonment lawsuit he filed against New York State. Tankleff spent 17 years in prison after being convicted of the brutal murders of his parents in 1988 in the Belle Terre home on Long Island. Tankleff was released from prison in 2007 after an appeals court overturned his conviction based on strong evidence that a former business partner of Tankleff’s father was involved in the murders.
In 1988, Tankleff’s parents were bludgeoned and stabbed to death in their Long Island home. Suffolk County Police Detectives immediately focused their investigation on the couple’s son Martin, who was only 17 at the time. Police lied to Tankleff by stating that his dying grandfather had regained consciousness in the hospital and told them that his grandson had committed the brutal murders. While Tankleff gave a verbal confession, he did not sign it and immediately recanted his statement to police. Tankleff was convicted in 1990 as a result of his coerced and false confession and was sentenced to 50 years to life in prison.
In 2007, an appeals court overturned the conviction, stating that a lower court did not consider strong evidence that Tankleff’s father’s business partner was involved in the killings. According to Tankleff’s attorney, the business partner, Jerry Steuerman, who co-owned a bagel story with Tankleff’s father, owed the father $500,000. Steuerman was the last to see Tankleff’s father alive and immediately faked his own death after the murders and fled to California. Tankleff’s attorney maintains that Steuerman was never considered a suspect, but that he actually hired two hit men to murder the Tankleffs. Steuerman has denied his involvement in the murders and repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment right to self-incrimination in a deposition about the case.
Then-Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo dropped the charges against Tankleff when he was released in 2007.
Tankleff’s attorney, Barry J. Pollack, commented on the monetary settlement with New York State. He said, “No one can give Martin Tankleff back the nearly two decades he has spent in prison for a crime he did not commit. Mr. Tankleff’s supporters have known all along that he had absolutely nothing to do with the murder of his parents.”
In a separate case still pending in Federal Court, Tankleff is suing Suffolk County and the detectives who investigated his case. Tankleff said, “I am looking forward to my federal trial where I hope to expose the misconduct that caused my wrongful conviction so that it does not happen to anyone else.”
Since his release from prison in 2007, Tankleff has gotten married, become a paralegal, and is currently pursuing his law degree from Touro Law School, where he will graduate in May 2014.
Website Resource: Martin Tankleff settles false imprisonment suit for $3.37M, Newsday, Andrew Smith, January 7, 2014
Martin Tankleff gets more than $3.3 million settlement from New York state, NY Daily News, John Marzulli, January 8, 2014