June 3, 2016
Headlines, Democracy Now!
An elderly New York prisoner who won wide support for his freedom has died just two months after he was released to a nursing home in Staten Island. Mohaman Koti was 89 years old. In 1978, Mr. Koti was convicted of attempted murder after he shot a New York City police officer during a traffic stop in which he says the officer drew his gun first. The officer later recovered, and Mr. Koti was offered a plea deal of seven-and-a-half years. When he demanded a trial, he was sentenced to 25 years to life. (Watch Democracy Now! coverage.)
Mr. Koti spent the next several decades mentoring young male prisoners. A corrections officer at Sing Sing said he had never met anyone so well respected on both sides of the bars. Ten years after Mr. Koti was eligible for parole, he was profiled in a 2013 New York Times column about prisoners over the age of 60 who are denied release based on their original crime, instead of an accurate assessment of the threat they pose. It described a parole board hearing where commissioners had to repeat questions to Mr. Koti because he was hard of hearing. He suffered from several medical problems and used a wheelchair, but he was still found to be at risk of committing another crime.
Mr. Koti was ultimately granted parole in September 2014, when a judge ruled the previous denials were irrational and called for a new hearing. Then, because of a pending bank robbery charge from the time of his arrest, he was ordered to serve an additional year in prison at a federal medical center in Butner, North Carolina.
Mr. Koti was finally freed in March. His longtime lawyer and friend Susan Tipograph told Democracy Now!, “The kind of life Koti lived when he got out—confined to a nursing home because he was not able to care for himself—shows that it was ludicrous to think he would have posed a threat to society all these years.”