(Photo: Screen Grab via ABC)
A young New York City man wrongfully accused of robbery wasted more than three years of his life behind bars on Rikers Island until a judge recently dismissed the charges against him, setting him free without even an apology.
Now Kalief Browder, 20, who was just a 16-year-old tenth grader walking home from a party when he was accosted and charged with robbery in 2010, is seeking to find life again but it's difficult, he explains, in an ABC report. He has since filed a civil rights lawsuit over what they did to him.
"This guy comes out of nowhere and says I robbed him. And the next thing I know they are putting cuffs on me. I don't know this dude. And I do over three years for something I didn't do," said Browder of his ordeal that began in May 2010.
"Someone who did not know Kalief Browder, and simply told the police officer, 'Officer I was robbed two weeks ago and that kid did it,' that's where it ended. That was the identification," said Browder's attorney, Paul Prestia.
Since his family was unable to make the $10,000 bail that came with the robbery charges and he only had a legal aid attorney, Browder was forced to languish behind bars over the next three years.
"It's very hard when you are dealing with dudes that are big and have weapons and shanks and there are gangs," said Browder. "You know if you don't give your phone call up, or you don't give them what they want, you, know they are going to jump you. And it's very scary."
He said there was a point when he wanted to take his life when his situation overwhelmed him.
"I mean, like every time I go to court I think I'm going home. And I go to court, and absolutely nothing happens," said Browder. "I was feeling so much pain, and it was all balling in my head, and I just had to grab my head and I can't take it."
While he was in jail, Browder said his sister got married. His nephew was born and many family events went by as he wasted away.
In January, after he had been in jail for 33 months, he explained he was offered a plea deal but he rejected it.
"The judge was trying to give me time served, and she is telling me if I am not taking it and I lose at trial I can get 15 years," said Browder. So the judge sent him back to jail unwilling to budge.
In June, however, the judge freed young Browder without an explanation.
"They just dismissed the case and they think it's allright. No apology, no nothing," he said. "They just say 'case dismissed, don't worry about nothing.' What do you mean, don't worry about nothing? You just took three years of my life."
Browder, who is now looking for a job and trying to complete his GED, lamented his lost years.
"I didn't get to go to prom or graduation. Nothing," he said. "Those are the main years. They are the main years. And I am never going to get those years back. Never. Never."