Wrongful conviction overturned: man exonerated after spending 26 years in prison for armed robbery

QUEENS, New York (WABC) – A man who spent two decades behind bars for an armed robbery in Queens that he did not commit has been released from prison and speaks exclusively to Eyewitness News.

The first steps towards freedom. It’s Chad Breland’s first night out of jail after serving 26 years for crimes he didn’t commit.

“I never gave up. You know because I know my innocence,” Breland said. “I couldn’t sit there at night and rest.”

He was convicted in 1997 of two thefts in November 1995 in Far Rockaway, Queens.

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He stayed at the prison library to study the law. His work paid off with the discovery of evidence that would lead to his acquittal.

“We found out that there were fingerprints at the scene that actually took Chad out and pointed to someone else,” attorney Chad Bonus said.

Bonus began reviewing the case in 2016 and found inconsistent witnesses, an unreliable informant, and fingerprints.

But that evidence was accepted when the Queens District Attorney pursued the case and Breland was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
“Sometimes I felt like I was in a dark cloud because every time I was fighting and turning around the corner I just couldn’t get where I needed to go,” said Breland.

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Thanks to the Queens Criminal Integrity Unit, the case got another chance and new facts came to light, leading to Breland’s release, but nothing makes up for the lost 26 years. At 52, he started again.

“You know it will take time to absorb 26 years. This is not a walk in the park,” he said. “I have to take time, heal and deal with many of the medical issues I have with my family and rebuild.”

Relatives have died while in prison, but now he wants to fight for the innocent people behind bars and work to eliminate the immunity of authorities who withhold or tamper with evidence.

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