After eight years and four months of imprisonment, 44-year-old Connecticutian William Haughey’s 2008 arson conviction—stemming from a March 2007 fire he allegedly incited at Smalley’s Inn in Carmel—was thrown out by a federal judge this past Monday. And during a press conference this morning at The Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation for Justice in the Bronx, Haughey addressed the public about officially being a free man.
“I’m blessed. I feel very excited,” Haughey told Hudson Valley following the conference, adding that his next step is to help assist the Deskovic Foundation—which aims to overturn wrongful convictions—“in any way.”
Though a Putnam County jury had found Haughey guilty nearly a decade ago, further review eventually determined that original case evidence was insufficient to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Haughey was first freed on bail May 9, before a U.S. District Court judge confirmed his exoneration two weeks later.
In addition to Deskovic’s support, Haughey benefited from Putnam County District Attorney Robert Tendy’s endorsement of his release. The unlikely alliance (Tendy became involved when Haughey reached out to him amid his D.A. campaign) was one Haughey described as “non-adversarial,” elaborating, “[Tendy] was willing to look into and overturn the conviction, which really shows his dedication to being an administer of justice.”
After reviewing the evidence with Haughey’s and the Foundation’s legal team, Tendy came to the conclusion that the cause of the fire was a minor electrical incident. According to Deskovic, the original investigation was limited to the area around the inn’s bathroom, where Haughey was seen lifting ceiling tiles to search for the fire. Tendy’s review unit concluded that the conviction could not stand, and that Haughey was arrested and imprisoned for ostensibly attempting to put out the fire.
Smalley’s owner remains unconvinced, telling lohud, “He’s not an innocent guy.” Undaunted, Haughey advises others fighting for exoneration to, “Keep your chin up and keep fighting the good fight.”