Reporting John Slattery
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Spending time in jail is a nightmare for anyone, but being incarcerated for five years only to be eventually acquitted is even worse.
That is exactly what happened to now 20-year-old Ryan Dufort, of Queens. He spent the last five years behind bars for a murder he didn’t commit. He said the experience taught him a lot about himself.
“I believe what doesn’t kill you always makes you stronger,” Dufort told CBS 2′s John Slattery.
Dufort was a 15-year-old sophomore at Bayside High school when he was arrested at a karaoke club in Flushing in October of 2006. Inside, a fight broke out involving bats and pipes. One man was killed and another was injured.
Dufort admitted he was at the club when the beatings took place, but didn’t know what happened because he was in another room. Dufort was arrested with others and charged with murder and gang assault. He was jailed through 37 adjournments.
“I basically grew up in jail,” he said.
When his case finally came to trial, he was acquitted. Dufort’s father, Joe, said the evidence against him was almost non-existent.
“The only witness ID’d him by clothing, not by his face,” Joe Dufort said.
Ryan Dufort’s attorney said that a female witness’ testimony was not made known to the district attorney until late in the case.
“She said her identification was based on clothing…That could have been a surprise to the district attorney as it was to me,” defense attorney Christopher Renfro said.
According to a statement from the Queens District Attorney’s Office, “(Dufort) was observed on the video placing a pipe in his sweat shirt sleeve while running towards the location where the attack was taking place and then proceeding to move into the group of individuals, surrounding the victims as they were being attacked.”
Ryan Dufort admitted he had armed himself, but only after the attack when he was exiting.
But now, five years later, he’s a free man.
“It was a weird feeling that I never felt before — actually walking out and feeling complete freedom,” he said.
Dufort was one of five men tried. The other four were found guilty of various charges.
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