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Man Held in Rikers After Exoneration Freed Sooner Than Expected

When THE CITY highlighted Kareem Mayo’s plight — stuck in jail after being freed from a two-decade stint on murder charges — officials started making calls and got him sprung.

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Kareem Mayo at his family’s Bushwick apartment on Tuesday.

Ben Fractenberg/THE CITY

Kareem Mayo is free. 

After 23 years behind bars, Mayo, 48, was released from Rikers Island late Monday night. 

His discharge came days after THE CITY reported that he was expected to be locked up for up to a month on Rikers — as he waited for an ankle monitor — even though his murder conviction from 1999 had just been tossed by Brooklyn Supreme Court Judge Dena Douglas.

That ruling came last week after Mayo’s lawyers had successfully argued that the sole eyewitness who claimed to have seen the killing lied about not needing to wear glasses to view far distances. 

Mayo, who is now living in Bushwick essentially under house arrest with his daughter, is required to wear the monitoring device as Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez weighs his options to either appeal the judge’s decision, drop the charges, or completely retry the case.

Hours after THE CITY’s story was published, State Senator Kevin Parker (D-Brooklyn) reached out to City Hall to encourage them to release Mayo sooner, according to his lawyer, Ron Kuby. 

“The only reason Mr. Mayo was released after ‘only’ a week in Rikers was the intervention of a judge, her law clerk, a state senator and a story in THE CITY,” Kuby said. “People want bail reform? Reform that.”

Parker said he lobbied for Mayo’s release after a staff member flagged the story about his plight in THE CITY. 

“Mayo should have been released immediately and not confined a minute longer, much less a week later,” Parker said in a statement. “It is unconscionable that a judge overturns a 23-year-old conviction, and the individual is forced to spend another night in prison, let alone on Rikers Island, waiting to be fitted for an ankle monitor.” 

‘I Can’t Go Anywhere’

On Monday night, when Mayo was finally let go from Rikers, he was driven to his daughter’s apartment in Bushwick by a city sheriff. 

He was greeted by several of his nine grandchildren, he told THE CITY, as well as his wife, Dorisha Mayo, who lives in Albany.

They ate a “little Thanksgiving” meal of rice, yams, blueberry cornbread, ox tails, and macaroni and cheese. 

“The meal was wonderful,” Mayo said. 

Mayo was being held at the Anna M. Kross Center on Rikers Island.

Courtesy fo the Department of Correction

But he must notify the sheriff’s office anytime he wants to leave the apartment and can only go out for medical visits or other pressing matters.

“I really want the DA to drop this charge because I want to move on with my life,” he said. “I’m in prison in my own apartment. I can’t go anywhere.”

His oldest grandson, who turned 12 on Saturday, asked him to go outside to watch him play basketball, Mayo said. 

“I had to deny him,” he added. “He was real sad.” 

Mayo had spent his last day locked up as he waited for the judge overseeing the case to approve the paperwork submitted by the city’s sheriffs, according to Kuby. 

Sheriffs are overseen by the city’s Department of Finance, an agency primarily responsible for tax assessments and collections — as well as boots on delinquent vehicles. 

Ryan Lavis, the department’s spokesperson, said the agency “cannot speak to the specifics of any particular case. 

“The average time for individuals to receive an ankle monitor can vary depending on the defendant’s background and individual case, as well as other factors such as if the defendant has any open warrants,” he added. 

Sheriffs must verify the defendant’s housing and get in contact with their relatives or other people living at that location — a process that sometimes takes time, he said. The court must then issue a release order. 

Presently, there are 207 people on electronic monitoring. That’s up from 101 at the start of 2022 and 40 at the beginning of 2021, according to Lavis. 

The increase is largely due to more people out of jail under bail reform laws passed by state lawmakers in 2020. 

The Eyes Have It

Mayo, and his co-defendant, Donnell Perkins, were originally convicted of the murder of Reuben Scrubb. They both long maintained their innocence. 

Perkins, who was 17 at the time of his arrest, was released on parole in 2021. 

In an effort to overturn their convictions, the two filed a so-called 440 motion in 2021, arguing that the only eyewitness, Ernest Brown, lied about needing eyeglasses. 

At the original trial, Brown told the court he saw Perkins order Mayo to shoot Scrubb on Dec. 25, 1999 at a gas station at the intersection of Atlantic and Grand Aves., court records show. 

He also testified that he was farsighted and only needed glasses for reading. 

But, in a subsequent probe, his ex-wife said he wore eyeglasses all the time and his DMV records indicated that he struggled to see things further away, according to the 440 legal filing. 

Mayo, who was sentenced to 25 years to life in 2001, has long said he was in Virginia visiting family when the shooting occurred. 

On Monday, Mayo’s final bureaucratic hurdle was to get the state prison system to lift a so-called hold it had placed on him. That hold remained in place for a week despite the decision to vacate Mayo’s conviction. 

Oren Yaniv, a spokesperson for Gonzalez, said, “We are reviewing our options.”

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