WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. (WIVB) — Josue Ortiz knew he was innocent. And he had 10 years and 22 days in a prison cell to think about it. First wrongly accused and then wrongly incarcerated, more than two years since, he’s still living his life day by day.
“I just prayed to God,” Ortiz said of his decade of incarceration. “I became a man of faith, and it was not easy.”
Appeals denied, locked up and fearing for his life, according to a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court Western District, Ortiz had no one in which to put his faith. In 2005, the feelings grew so strong, he attempted suicide.
“It was frustrating, day by day, I gotta life knowing I’m an innocent man in jail, knowing that I got nothing to do with those kind of crimes,” he said.
And it would take another seven years for him to be reborn.
“I was feeling real hopeless, because I thought that I was going to do my time and then go home,” Ortiz said.
The crimes of which Ortiz was accused — and to which he confessed six times — sparked outcry from Buffalo’s west side neighborhood. Hector and Miguel Camacho were killed in 2004 during a home invasion robbery.
“There was an AK-47 used,” said former Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita during an interview with News 4 in 2014. “One of the victims took bullets point blank.”
Sedita is named in a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of Ortiz, as is the city of Buffalo and its police department.
Ortiz’s Williamsville-based attorney, Wayne Felle, says Sedita failed to act for two years, after his client’s case was reopened and he was exhonerated in 2012.
“The DA at the time did not accept, in fact refused to accept, the investigation that the FBI and the US Attorney’s office conducted,” Felle said.
It took two years before Ortiz got his day in court — as it turns out, 10 years and 22 days too late.
“That was a beautiful feeling, a relief feeling,” he said. “It was a feeling, I felt a relief from everything.”
Felle said medical professionals hired by the court in 2004 ruled that Josue Ortiz understood the proceedings before him. He said during interviews recently they had reversed their findings after reviewing all the information about the case. Felle said they could appear as witnesses for Ortiz.
Sedita could not be reached for comment. The city of Buffalo declined comment.
Three other men, including Efrain “Cheko” Hidalgo, the reputed former head of the 7th Street gang, were indicted after federal investigators came up with new evidence. Hidalgo was said to have confessed to the murders, according to News 4 archives.