An online fundraising campaign has helped to bring in tens of thousands of dollars to a man who has been wrongly imprisoned for 24 years for a murder that took place when he was hundreds of miles away on a Florida vacation.
In 1989, Jonathan Fleming was with his family in Disney World when Darryl Rush was shot and killed in Brooklyn. He was sentenced to 35 years to life in prison, according to The New York Daily News. A just-discovered piece of evidence, a telephone receipt that proves Fleming was in Florida just hours before the murder in New York, enabled him to be freed last month. The telephone receipt had been in the case files the entire time, according to ABC News.
When Fleming was released, he had $93 in his account. “I had about $93 in my account so that’s all I was given when I got out of prison, $93,” Fleming told ABC News. “I’m living from house to house with my cousins.”
Fleming was convicted of shooting and killing his friend Darryl “Black” Rush in Brooklyn. The exonerating piece of evidence had been in the prosecution’s case files from the beginning, according to The Daily Mail. A recent review of the prosecution, ordered by the new New York District Attorney Kenneth Thompson, led to Fleming’s exoneration and release.
A key eyewitness recanted following the 1990 conviction and new witnesses implicated someone else, according to Fleming’s defense team. The eyewitness said she lied so police would release her for an unrelated arrest. Fleming continually lost his appeals, despite plane tickets, videos, and postcards from his trip, according to The Daily Mail. Meanwhile, the Brooklyn prosecutors’ process has come under increased scrutiny—in part under DA Kenneth Thompson’s command—for the way in which it had reviewed questionable convictions. DA Thompson beat out former DA Charles “Joe” Hynes in 2013 on a campaign that focused on a trend of wrongful convictions during Hynes’ time as DA.
Meanwhile, Alex Sutaru, 32, began an online fundraising campaign for Fleming and, to date, more than $40,000 has been raised since April 10 with more than 600 people donating from 14 countries, according to the Daily News. “I think people recognize that donating a little they can help this person integrate back into society and build a life for himself that was wrongly taken away from him,” Sutaru told ABC News.
The money is helping to cover rent and food as Fleming works on creating a new life for himself. According to Sutaru, it was Fleming’s positive attitude during such a challenging situation that served as his inspiration, the Daily News reported. “People, you know, I never thought they’d do this for me,” Fleming said.
“This is somebody that wasn’t guilty of a crime; he was wrongfully convicted,” Sutaru told ABC News. “After the hell he’s been through for the past 24 years, he came out with a positive attitude and said he wants to live the rest of his life, go to school, be positive and today’s the first day of the rest of my life.” When asked how he was not angry, Fleming said, “I just have to move forward. I’m just so happy to be out and I don’t want to live that way,” ABC News reported.
Fleming and Sutaru met for the first time this week. “I want to thank you, man, I really do, I want you to know that, it really means a lot that you did this for me,” Fleming said. “You’re a wonderful man to do this for me. I appreciate it.” He told ABC News, “I look at things really different now, I really do, I look at things real different.”
In February, DA Thompson’s office agreed to dismiss murder convictions on two men who had each spent more than 20 years in prison for three killings. The office indicated that newly discovered evidence put their guilt in question, according to The Daily Mail.