Two former Broward Sheriff deputies should pay a man $7 million for framing him in a brutal rape and murder, a jury said.

After a five-week trial in federal court in Fort Lauderdale, jurors returned a verdict unanimously finding that former policer officers William Mantesta and George Pierson framed Anthony Caravella, a mentally challenged 15 year old, for the 1983 rape and murder of a Miramar woman and should pay him $7 million for the close to 26 years he spent in prison.

The jurors found Mantesta and Pierson acted with malice or reckless indifference to Caravella, who had an IQ of 67, violated his civil rights against being maliciously prosecuted, coerced him into confessing and withheld evidence that could have cleared him soon after his arrest, the jurors decided.

Caravella, who testified during the trial said he trusted Mantesta, was arrested by Mantesta and Pierson on Dec. 28, 1983 on a juvenile case alleging he stole a bicycle and failed to show up for court. Caravella made a series of increasingly self-incriminating statements while in custody over the next week, eventually confessing to the murder.

Caravella was quickly convicted in 1984.  Thankfully he managed to escape the death penalty, but was condemned to spend the rest of his life in prison.

In 2001, Caravella’s brother Larry Dunlap contacted the Sun Sentinel seeking help and reporters began investigating the case.  Concerned by their findings, the reporters reached out to the Broward Public Defender’s Office and Chief Assistant Public Defender Diane Cuddihy sought DNA testing. A first round of testing by the BSO crime laboratory reported no useful results in 2001 but Cuddihy never gave up and sought more testing by other labs.

Finally, in September 2009, Caravella was freed from prison and his conviction was thrown out on March 25, 2010 when DNA testing excluded him as the source of any evidence in the crimes.

Cuddihy was unable to hold back tears of joy as the verdict was announced.  “The relief is overwhelming that these men are going to have pay for what they did to that boy.  It’s just so horrible what they did to a 15-year-old child. They should be in prison.”

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