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Lowell agrees to pay $13 million to man wrongfully convicted of deadly arson

A Lowell man who spent over three decades in prison for a deadly arson he did not commit is receiving one of the largest wrongful conviction settlements in the region's history.

The Lowell City Council on Tuesday night approved paying Victor Rosario $13 million.

"Today, this chapter is ending and a new chapter begins for me," Rosario said Wednesday, speaking in front of the Moakley federal courthouse in Boston. "Nothing can ever compensate for those years taken from me."

Rosario was convicted in 1983 — for setting a fire in a Lowell home that killed eight people. His lawyers said he was at the scene, trying to save people from the burning building. Lowell police later detained him and charged him with the crime.

In 2014, a judge exonerated Rosario, finding there was no actual evidence of arson.

Rosario then sued the city and the police for damages. The settlement comes about two weeks before they were set to go to trial.

"Victor Rosario is receiving some justice... but Victor Rosario is not made whole," said Mark Reyes, one of Rosario's attorneys. "He lost 32 years of his life, every day waking up knowing he was an innocent man."

Reyes said before the settlement agreement, they were preparing to show that in the 1980s, Lowell arson investigators would receive grants from insurance companies if they ruled a fire to have been an arson.

He said none of this was made known to the defense at the time.

Lowell city officials did not respond to a request for comment.


Walter Wuthmann General Assignment Reporter
Walter Wuthmann is a general assignment reporter for WBUR.



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