Strangers Raise Thousands for Man Who Wrongly Spent 25 Years in Prison

Jonathan Fleming hugs his attorney
Jonathan Fleming hugs his attorney Anthony Mayol while his other attorney, Taylor Koss, applauds in Brooklyn, N.Y.’s Supreme Court after a judge declared him a free man on April 8, 2014. Bebeto Matthews/AP

Jonathan Fleming, the recently exonerated Brooklyn man who spent 25 years in prison for a murder he did not commit, emerged last week free but jobless, broke and without any experience in the 21st century workforce.

Alex Sutaru, a finance executive with no personal connection to Fleming, was struck by the story—so much so that he set about soliciting donations for the ex-convict.

Fleming is now the beneficiary of a significant funding campaign on Indiegogo, the online crowdfunding platform.

On Thursday, the Associated Press reported that the campaign had raised more than $3,500 to help Fleming. That figure has multiplied eightfold to $29,000 and climbing.

“Upon his release, the story broke [and] I saw it on TV,” Sutaru said. “So I decided that I would do something about it, and it went from there.”

He said he contacted Fleming’s lawyers to make sure Fleming approved of the idea.

"Our target was $10,000,” he said. “But it’s been kind of above and beyond that. Wherever it stops, it stops.”

Fleming’s lawyer, Taylor Koss, said the ex-prisoner is “stunned” by the generosity of strangers.

“It’s helping to restore his faith,” Koss wrote in an email to Newsweek. “I wish you could have seen the smile on his face when he saw the total. Tears welled up in his eyes.”

Fleming, 51, was freed earlier this month after evidence surfaced confirming that he was at Walt Disney World with his family when the fatal shooting of Darryl Rush took place in Brooklyn. That was the alibi he had insisted on throughout his trial.

“Basically my plans are trying to find me a job and find some shelter,” Fleming told Newsweek in an interview last week. “I just need some employment to try to take care of my family.”