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Convicted cop killer wins monetary settlement from state

Albert Victory went to prison for killing a New York City police officer and, when the state botched his parole decades later, he sued in Buffalo federal court.

Now 76 and free, Victory has settled his suit for an undisclosed amount of money.

The settlement ends Victory's 15-year legal battle over a state parole board that granted his request for freedom and then, under pressure from then-Gov. George E. Pataki, reversed itself.

In his suit, Victory, who was convicted in connection with the 1968 murder of New York City Police Officer John E. Varecha, argued that politics interfered with his right to an early release from prison.

On Friday, just two days before the start of his trial in U.S. District Court, he settled the case.

'The economic realities of his age," said Norman P. Effman, one of Victory's lawyers, when asked why his client agreed to finally settle.

Effman would not comment on the amount of money at the heart of the settlement, but indicated Victory saw it as an appropriate resolution to his case.

Lawyers in the State Attorney General's Office also declined to comment on the settlement.

Even now, nearly 50 years later, Victory maintains he was caught in the middle during the Varecha murder. He was with the guy who shot Varecha but claims he was trying to break up their struggle, not escalate it.

"I was convicted of something I didn't do, I really didn't do," he said after a recent court appearance in Buffalo. "I've been fighting for justice my whole life."

Filed in 2002, Victory's suit was based on his case before the state parole board while he was an inmate at Attica Correctional Facility, which is why the suit was filed here.

When the board approved his parole in 1999 and then rescinded it, he sued and a Wyoming County judge gave him his freedom later that year. His suit was based on the additional months he spent in prison while challenging the parole board's reversal.

From Day One, Victory acknowledged his goal was a monetary settlement, and he never apologized for that.

Effman said he and Victory's other lawyers were preparing for his trial this week when the prospects of a settlement became more promising. He pointed to the "certainty" of a cash settlement. especially given Victory's age, compared to the difficulty of winning a verdict for a convicted cop killer.

Officer Varecha was a rookie two months away from his one-year anniversary with the force when he was killed.

At Victory's trial, there was evidence that Victory and Ronald Bornholdt, the man he was with, assaulted Varecha after a traffic stop and that the policeman fought back with his nightstick and eventually drew his gun.

Prosecutors also argued during the trial that Victory and Bornholdt lured Varecha into a nearby alley where Bornholdt shot the officer four times. Both men were convicted of murder in 1970 and sentenced to 25 years to life in state prison.

Eight years later, Victory escaped from Green Haven Correctional Facility in Dutchess County by bribing two guards. He spent the next three years on the run in California.

Captured near San Francisco, Victory returned to prison and, by most accounts, was a model inmate until he was released.

New York City's police union reacted with outrage at the news of Victory's release in 1999 and called for an end to discretionary parole.



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