Treasurer Nancy Kopp, Gov. Larry Hogan and Comptroller Peter Franchot at a Board of Public Works meeting in Annapolis on Oct. 20, 2021. (Photo/Alexandra Radovic/Capital News Service)

By ALEXANDRA RADOVIC
Capital News Service

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland has agreed to pay a wrongfully convicted prisoner more than $500,000 in compensation.

The Board of Public Works on Wednesday voted unanimously to pay Leslie Vass total supplemental compensation of $577,587.

Vass was wrongfully convicted of armed robbery in a Baltimore City court in 1975 according to The National Registry of Exonerations, by the University of California Irvine Newkirk Center for Science and Society, University of Michigan Law School and Michigan State University College of Law.

In 1974, when Vass was 17, three armed men robbed a Baltimore delivery man named Joseph Chester. Two of the three were caught, and Chester later identified Vass as the third robber. He was prosecuted and convicted as an adult in 1975, the registry states.

A judge sentenced the Southern High School basketball player to 20 years in prison, with the possibility of parole, according to the study.

While incarcerated, another inmate alerted Vass to the identity of the actual third man, and Chester, the victim, confirmed the mistaken identity, according to the registry.

In October 1984, Vass was released from prison. In April 1987, the Maryland Board of Public Works compensated Vass with $250,000.

A law passed last year bases payments to the wrongfully imprisoned on the median income in the state, and some exonerated inmates who already received a payment can be compensated additionally.

Leslie Vass (Screengrab from YouTube)

The state will also pay Vass’s later representation, Brown, Goldstein and Levy, $20,799.

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot, D, said during the board meeting Wednesday that he thinks the Vass case speaks to the state’s “urgent need for policy makers to continue to make reforms.”

“All of us want to see a criminal justice system that truly delivers justice,” Franchot said.

During the meeting, the board also covered issues involving rapid COVID-19 testing and announced Treasurer Nancy Kopp’s retirement.

And Franchot and Gov. Larry Hogan, R, briefly sparred verbally over previous political statements Hogan made regarding increasing police funding.

The Board of Public Works is scheduled to meet next on Nov. 3.

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