By John Tozzi
The plaintiff, Shih Wei Su, is seeking $25 million in damages in his suit filed Feb. 16 in U.S. Eastern District Court in Brooklyn. Su was convicted of attempted murder in 1992, one year after two men were shot in a Bayside pool hall, but he was freed after 12 years when a federal court found that prosecutors “knowingly elicited false testimony” from the key witness.The suit charges that the prosecutor in Su's case, Assistant District Attorney Linda Rosero, withheld evidence that the witness had agreed to testify against Su in exchange for a lighter sentence in an extortion case.”We reserve comment on the specifics of the lawsuit until we have had an opportunity to review the papers,” Kevin Ryan, the chief spokesman for the Queens DA's office, said in a statement. “I would point out, however, that Mr. Su's conviction was affirmed by the state's appellate courts and that I anticipate that the lawsuit will be vigorously defended by the city's corporation counsel.”On Jan. 4, 1991, two men were seriously injured in a shooting at Royal Billiard Hall at 42-02 215th St. in Bayside. (The space is now occupied by a Laundromat.) The two teenage victims were alleged members of a gang called the Green Dragons and another member, Jeffrey Tom, claimed to have witnessed the shooting. Su denied that he was a member of a rival gang.Although none initially implicated Su, according to the lawsuit, Tom, who separately faced extortion charges, later accused Su of ordering the shooting. Tom agreed to testify in exchange for a sentence of probation in his extortion charge, but the proceedings were sealed and the deal was never disclosed during Su's trial, according to the suit.Dozens of potential witnesses were in the pool hall at the time, according to the suit and news reports at the time. A Bayside Times article that followed the shooting said 20 patrons were interviewed at the 111th Precinct. But no other eyewitnesses testified for the prosecution, the suit said.In February 1992, Su, then 18, was sentenced to between 16 and 50 years in prison. He studied law while incarcerated upstate, and although several appeals were denied, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Manhattan ordered a new trial in 2003 after a legal aid lawyer uncovered the sealed transcript of Tom's plea deal. The DA did not try him again.Su's attorney, John Rudin, previously sued the Bronx DA's office in a similar case that was settled in 2003 for $5 million. In Su's lawsuit, he cites 84 other cases between 1985 and 2004 that were later overturned because prosecutors withheld evidence or presented false or misleading evidence.At least 31 of the 84 cases were decided before Queens DA Richard Brown took office in June 1991. Although the suit is technically against the city of New York, it names both Brown and his predecessor, former DA John Santucci, as well as Rosero, the prosecutor who tried Su's case. Rosero no longer works for the Queens DA's office.Jerry Iannece, the chairman of Community Board 11 who previously worked as a prosecutor in the Bronx DA's office, said the number of cases overturned has to be seen in perspective.”One case is one case too many,” Iannece, who now has a private practice, said. “But 84 cases over 20 years is not really a lot.”Many of them may have been overturned on minor technicalities or mistakes made by judges rather than prosecutors, he said.Reach reporter John Tozzi by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext. 188.