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Thomas Ozzborn

Other Plea Exonerations in New York
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On May 9, 2015, a guard at the Auburn Correctional Facility in Auburn, New York accused 26-year-old inmate Thomas Ozzborn of illegally possessing a weapon. The guard, 33-year-old Matthew Cornell, reported that Ozzborn was caught with a shank in his shoe during a search.

At a prison disciplinary hearing three weeks later, Ozzborn was found guilty of possessing the shank. He was transferred to Cayuga Correctional Facility, where he spent the next seven months in solitary confinement.

On January 27, 2016, Ozzborn was to be released from prison, having completed his original sentence on gun and narcotics charges. At that time, however, he was arrested on a charge of promoting prison contraband for having been caught with the shank.

Ozzborn claimed he was innocent and that Cornell had planted the weapon. On June 8, 2016, however, he pled guilty to promoting prison contraband and was sentenced to two to four years in prison. Ozzborn pled guilty because he believed that if he went to trial, jurors would believe the guard’s testimony and not his denial that he had a shank.

In December 2016, the Cayuga County District Attorney’s Office announced that Cornell had admitted that he planted a weapon on a different inmate at the Auburn prison. According to district attorney Jon Budelman, Cornell said that the inmate was a member of a prison gang, and he wanted the inmate to be transferred to another prison to try to break up the gang.

Because of Cornell’s admission, the inmate involved in that incident was not charged with a crime. However, Budelman then asked a Cayuga County Supreme Court judge to vacate Ozzborn’s conviction. On January 19, 2017, Ozzborn’s conviction was vacated and the charge was dismissed.

That same month, at the district attorney’s request, the convictions of Sean Gaines, Naythen Aubain, Donnesia Brown, and Jose Muniz were vacated and the charges dismissed. All of them—like Ozzborn—had pled guilty to possessing a weapon in prison and all had contended Cornell had planted the weapons.

In March 2017, Ozzborn filed a lawsuit in the New York Court of Claims seeking damages for his wrongful conviction.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 7/3/2017
State:New York
County:Cayuga
Most Serious Crime:Weapon Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2015
Convicted:2016
Exonerated:2017
Sentence:2 to 4 years
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:26
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No