NSB secures largest individual settlement in NYC history

John Marzulli and Larry McShane, Daily News, June 3, 2010

The man framed for murder by “Mafia Cop” Louis Eppolito won a record $9.9 million settlement from the city on Thursday – and promptly wished his jailed tormentor continued good health.

“I hope he has a long life in prison and suffers,” Barry Gibbs said after the unprecedented award. “Nothing is worse than being in a cell 23 hours in a day.”

Gibbs, 62, spoke from experience: He spent nearly 19 years behind bars after Eppolito schemed to jail him in the 1986 strangling of a Brooklyn prostitute.

The payout was the largest civil rights settlement in city history, topping the previous mark of $8 million paid to Brooklyn handyman Franklyn Waldron in 2004 after he was shot and paralyzed by a city cop.
“The settlement amount speaks loudly about Barry’s innocence and the Police Department’s failure to take action against Eppolito,” said lawyer Nick Brustin of the firm Neufeld, Scheck & Brustin.

The deal came as Gibbs prepared for Monday jury selection in his $18 million lawsuit against Eppolito and the city – $1 million for each full year behind bars.

“This is a miracle for me,” said Gibbs, a Rockaways resident now battling colon cancer. “I can go forward with my life now.”

The city Corporation Counsel said the settlement was “in the best interest of all parties.”

Negotiations to resolve the lawsuit began in the last three days. Last year, Gibbs collected $1.9 million from the state in a separate suit.

The 61-year-old Eppolito, one of the most corrupt cops in NYPD history, is serving a life sentence after his conviction for selling his detective’s shield to the mob.

The beefy ex-cop also coerced a witness into identifying Gibbs as the killer of prostitute Virginia Robertson.

At a 63rd Precinct lineup, the witness selected the clean-shaven, 5-feet-11 Gibbs after earlier describing the suspect as 5 inches shorter with a mustache.

Gibbs’ lawyers theorized Eppolito was trying to keep the heat off a mob associate suspected in the slaying. Gibbs, insisting he was innocent, was sentenced to serve 20 years to life.

He was finally freed in September 2005 after the Las Vegas arrests of Eppolito and crooked cohort Stephen Caracappa – dubbed the “Mafia Cops” after serving as Luchese family hitmen while on the NYPD payroll.

The Robertson case file was found in Eppolito’s home, eventually leading to Gibbs’ release.

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