NEW YORK – A recently exonerated man who spent nearly 25 years behind bars for a killing that happened while he was at Disney World is getting help from dozens of well-wishers who have contributed to an online fund for him.
About 70 people had given a total of more than $3,400 to the campaign for Jonathan Fleming as of Wednesday.
Fleming was released last week after a judge dismissed the 1989 case, with the assent of Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson's office.
The 51-year-old Fleming had said from the start that he couldn't have shot Darryl "Black" Rush in Brooklyn on Aug. 15, 1989, because Fleming was on a family trip to Disney World at the time. Although Fleming had plane tickets, videos and other records of the vacation, prosecutors at the time suggested he could have returned briefly to New York for the shooting, and a woman testified that she had seen him do it.
She recanted soon after his conviction, but he lost appeals. Then Brooklyn prosecutors agreed last year to review the case and found documents in authorities' files that backed Fleming's Florida alibi. Meanwhile, his defense team located witnesses who implicated someone else.
Finance executive Alex Sutaru was struck by news accounts of Fleming's exoneration and his hopes of pursuing higher education.
"I decided, 'OK, I'm going to do something about this,'" said Sutaru, 32.
So he set up the campaign through the crowdfunding site Indiegogo, after contacting Fleming's lawyers, Anthony Mayol and Taylor Koss, to make sure it would be all right. They're not directly involved in the effort but are welcoming it.
Fleming also plans to pursue wrongful-conviction lawsuits against the city and state, Koss said.