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They spent years behind bars for a murder they didn’t commit. Now they’re suing the federal government for withholding evidence that would have proven their innocence. The three plaintiffs — former members of a white biker gang called The Pagans — were convicted in 1976 of murdering Johnnie Battle outside a D.C. nightclub. “These were three innocent men who spent a combined total of 75 years in prison,” says Patrick Regan, a civil trial attorney representing Joseph Eastridge, who served 29 years; Joseph Sousa, who served 20 years; and Michael Damien, who died while incarcerated after 26 years in prison. On March 10, Eastridge and Sousa, as well as Damien’s family, filed suit in the U.S. District Court in D.C. seeking $50 million each. The suit alleges former assistant U.S. attorneys Joseph Guerrieri Jr. and Martin Linsky withheld grand jury testimony at the trial that would have proven it was three other members of the gang who participated in the stabbing death of Battle. Neither Guerrieri, now a private attorney with Guerrieri, Edmond, Clayman & Bartos, nor Linsky, an administrative law judge with the National Labor Relations Board, could be reached for comment. Channing Phillips, chief of staff at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in D.C., would not comment because the office had not yet reviewed the suit. After nearly three decades of unsuccessful appeals, Judge Rosemary Collyer overturned the convictions in April 2005, writing in her opinion: “This is the rare case in which petitioners can prove their �actual innocence’ of the crime charged as well as violations of their constitutional rights at trial.”
Sarah Kelley can be contacted at [email protected].

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