Man who admitted killing two brothers being set free

Posted at 10:46 AM, Dec 09, 2014
and last updated 2015-12-04 10:46:25-05

A man who pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the deaths of two brothers in 2004 has been set free.

Josue Ortiz walked free Tuesday outside of Attica Correctional. It's the first time he's been on the other side of the barbed wire since 2004.

"I'm very happy that even though it sometimes takes a long time the system ended up working in this case," said Jeremy Schwartz, one of Ortiz' defense attorneys.

Federal investigators found evidence pointing to new suspects in the murder of Luis Camacho’s brothers, Miguel and Nelson, who were killed nearly 10 years ago.

Josue Ortiz had pleaded guilty, but at the time of his arrest, there were many questions about his mental state.

"He's been diagnosed with various types of mental disorders and to say why someone would do that is a very difficult thing to say," said Schwartz. "It's something many of us wouldn't understand."

The court deemed Ortiz competent and his confession to the crime was accepted. At the time, Ortiz was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

"If I have a reasonable doubt, a serious reasonable doubt which I do, I have a an obligation to inform the court of that and act accordingly," said Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita.

Prosecutors now agree Ortiz is not responsible for the killings on Niagara Street. Sedita's office did not challenge Ortiz' release. 

A federal investigation into the "7th Street" and "Cheko's Crew" gangs recently unveiled new information about the murders.

Sedita says it's only recent events that have caused his office to reconsider that position, namely that Efrain "Checko" Hidalgo, one of the defendants accused by federal authorities in the murders, reportedly confessed to the crimes, named his accomplices, and acknowledged Ortiz had nothing to do with the homicides.

The Erie County District Attorney's Office questioned Hidalgo, though they were not allowed to question Frank "Macho" Matias, a man who prosecutors say admitted taking part in the homicides but has been given immunity by federal prosecutors.

Sedita says, legally speaking, his office should continue to oppose Ortiz' release based on his conviction and multiple confessions. But given the new evidence and Ortiz' ongoing mental health issues, Sedita told the judge, "I cannot, in good conscience, permit a man to remain in jail when I have a reasonable doubt concerning his guilt."

He says his office has been told by federal authorities that Hidalgo and all others under federal indictment for the murders of Miguel and Nelson Camacho will be vigorously prosecuted.

Now that Ortiz has been released, his attorney says the difficult part will be him adjusting to life 10 years later.

"He's going to have a lot of struggles now that he gets out in society," Schwartz said. "It's going to be an important thing to get him back to being a productive member of society."