James Calvin Tillman spent more than 18 years in prison for a rape he never committed and the $5 million in compensation the state wants to offer him seemed negligible Tuesday as he testified about what he endured.
“I felt like I was kidnapped and I was raped,” Tillman told the Judiciary Committee. When you go into prison for rape everyone looks at you like “you’re scum,” he said.
Tillman’s attorney, Gerard Smyth said the injuries and damages in this case are worth considerably more than $5 million, but that Tillman has agreed to the $5 million as a settlement. “James does have the option to bring lawsuits against the state if this method is not passed by the legislature,” Smyth said.
He said Tillman is willing to waive any and all claims for a $5 million lump sum payment, which would end up being about $3.25 million if the IRS steps in and takes its 35 percent in federal taxes.
Smyth said Tillman was not in favor of legislation that would have the state administer $3.5 million from unclaimed lottery winnings to him over a period of time. He said his client does not want the state to continue to “invest the money that should be owned by James.”
He said Tillman has earned it the hard way and the legislature would be hard-pressed to find anyone who disagrees.
Smyth said Tillman has filed a letter of intent to sue the Hartford Police Department and the individual officers who participated in his wrongful conviction. Smyth said his client has also served notice to the state claims commission for the state laboratory’s failure to test all the biological evidence available to them and the University of Connecticut Health Center for allegedly leaving a foreign object in his Achilles heel during an operation he had undergone while still an inmate in the states care.
Judiciary Committee members tripped over themselves to apologize to Tillman. Judiciary Committee Co-Chairman Michael Lawlor, D-East Haven, told Tillman he was “an inspiration to me and a lot of people.” Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, said the case was “extraordinarily sympathetic case,” and the state has a “moral obligation” to right this situation.
Sen. Ed Gomes, D-Bridgeport, said the $5 million is “miniscule in comparison to what you lost.” He said he wouldn’t trade $10 million for 18 years in prison.
Rep. Doug McCrory, D-Hartford, said the state has a half-billion surplus and “spends money like there’s no tomorrow,” so it should not be arguing over paying him $5 million.
“Give him an opportunity to get back on his feet. He shouldn’t have to argue his point anymore,” McCrory said.