Judge Frees Man Convicted In 1990 Killing of Rabbi Chaskel Werzberger


david-rantaA man who spent more than two decades behind bars is now a free man.

A judge vacated the conviction of 58-year-old David Ranta this afternoon after a reinvestigation of his case cast serious doubt on evidence used to convict him in the cold-blooded shooting of Rabbi Chaskel Werzberger of Brooklyn.

“I’m overwhelmed. I feel like I’m under water, swimming. Like I said from the beginning, I had nothing to do with this case,” Ranta said after leaving state court in Brooklyn. Emotional relatives gathered around Ranta, including a daughter who was an infant at the time of his conviction but is now pregnant.

When asked outside court what he would do next, Ranta told reporters, “Get the h— out of here.”

Ranta was found guilty of murdering Rabbi Werzberger, who was shot on Feb. 8, 1990 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The murder happened on Clymer Avenue as a suspect tried to rob a diamond courier, who escaped unharmed.

Rabbi Werzberger was getting into his car when the suspect then grabbed him, shot him in the forehead, jumped in Rabbi Werzberger’s car and drove away.

Though no physical evidence linked Ranta to the crime, a jury convicted him based on witness testimony and circumstantial evidence. Ranta fit the wanted man’s description of being blond and athletic.

“They used perjured testimony, it was clear,” said defense attorney Michael Baum. “They used a parade of crack heads and thieves to say whatever they had to.”

But in 2011, Ranta’s case was reviewed by a new unit of the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office. The review cast doubt on witness testimony and eventually concluded detectives had mishandled aspects of the investigation.

One witness told investigators he remembers orders by detectives during a line up, advising: “pick the guy with the big nose.”

“It tells me we were right all along,” Baum said. “David was innocent.”

Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes said in a statement that an “exhaustive investigation” found “the foundation upon which Mr. Ranta’s conviction was based had been eroded and that no remaining evidence could lead to Mr. Ranta’s conviction, were he to be retried.”

Prosecutors believe the real killer died in a car crash two months after the murder. That man’s wife has provided information and other witnesses have recanted.

Community spokesman Issac Abraham said he heard the fatal shot. He is married to the rabbi’s cousin and was stunned by the development.

“That is just unbelievable, that a botched robbery and murder becomes a botched prosecution,” he said.

Ranta been serving time in a Buffalo prison since his conviction in 1991.

Source: WCBS 880 AM RADIO NY

{Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. This is why the death penalty in this country is a bad idea. What if this man had ch’v been xecuted? Our criminal justice system is not the best, and there have been too many cases like this.

  2. Gimme a break, #1, Old-timer!
    Nearly all of the deserved death penalty cases are well earned and well deserved. It would BDE a very smart deterrent – doesn’t the hayliger Torah also subscribe its use and yet a Beis Din who has employed its use just once was labled ‘A Katlannis’. It is an excellent deterrent, I submit.

  3. The hashgacha of this story is fascinating. Hashem’s justice was served swiftly as the real killer was himself killed just 2 months after the murder. (What comes around goes around & the drowner’s drowned skull of Avos 2:7 comes to mind.) …Furthermore that such a Jewish story of freedom and redemption should be put in the public spotlight of global headlines NOW, the week before PESACH, zman cherusenu! In Hashem’s unfathomable cheshbonos, this innocent man had to be imprisoned in order to be released now, for our sake. What’s He trying to teach us?…