Los Angeles Agrees To Pay $5.2 Million To Settle Wrongful Conviction Case
In 2015, the Times ran a headline that stated "L.A. murder saga costs city $8 million." That saga will now cost the city over $13 million. Reggie Cole and his friend Obie Anthony were both accused of fatally shooting Felipe Gonzalez Angeles outside a brothel in South L.A. in 1994, when the pair were just 18 and 19, according to the L.A. Times. They both maintained their innocence throughout the trial, yet were both convicted of the murder despite a lack of physical evidence linking them to the crime. Their convictions have since been thrown out, and the city of Los Angeles will now pay $5.2 million to settle a case with Cole, who spent 16 years in jail, after already settling with Anthony for $8.3 million.
On March 27, 1994, Angeles had been out with a few friends before stopping by a brothel at 49th and Figueroa in South L.A. to visit a woman. The woman he was looking for was not available, so he did not go inside. The shooting occurred outside the brothel minutes later. Angeles was shot in the back. His two friends were also shot but both survived, according to Rolling Stone.
John Jones was the key witness in the case. He ran the brothel and lived in the apartment complex where the shooting occurred. Jones said that he had witnessed the shooting and told detectives that one of the killers had been shot in the leg. Jones would later pick out Cole as one of the shooters. Cole had been shot in the leg before, but it had happened when he was a boy.
Cole and Anthony went to prison, and that's where they stayed for over 15 years. However, in 2000, Cole murdered another inmate, and this would, oddly enough, lead to his release. According to Rolling Stone, the inmate—a man named Eddie "The Devil" Clark—had already stabbed Cole twice and demanded him to do anything he said. Clark was in prison for shooting a man and sexually assaulting his mother during the course of a robbery, and had also been convicted of beating a teenager to death when Clark himself was a juvenile. Cole was unwilling to submit to Clark, and so Cole armed himself with a shiv and later stabbed Clark in the neck.
"I play it over and over in my head, trying to figure out a way around me killing him. I was going to kill him, or he was going to kill me," he later said.
In 2007, Cole was facing the death penalty for Clark's murder, which attracted the attention of the California Innocence Project. They ultimately came to the conclusion that Jones had lied.
This led to a judge overturning Cole's conviction in 2009. Another judge later stated that he also believed Jones lied, but indicated that the prosecution had made a deal with Jones, who was charged with pimping and pandering, in which he would receive a lighter sentence if he testified. That deal was not disclosed in court. Jones was also not a first-time offender. He had previously been incarcerated for killing his girlfriend, LA Weekly reports.
Jones later admitted that he had not been entirely truthful. He had not personally witnessed the shooting, but instead relied on a description of the event from his daughters. One of his daughters said that she had seen the shooter twice: the night of the murder, and on her birthday. On her birthday, however, Cole would have been in jail on charges that he had murdered Angeles.
Cole was released in 2010. Anthony was released in 2011.