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New Evidence Could Free North Jersey Man's Accused Killer From Lifetime In Prison

Afrim Tairi of Macedonia was convicted of being the ringleader in the brutal killing of Sealy Mattress Co. heir Howard Lewis of Teaneck. A "jailhouse lawyer" who spoke to another involved suspect is now saying that Tairi was framed.
Afrim Tairi of Macedonia was convicted of being the ringleader in the brutal killing of Sealy Mattress Co. heir Howard Lewis of Teaneck. A "jailhouse lawyer" who spoke to another involved suspect is now saying that Tairi was framed. Photo Credit: NJ Department of Corrections

New evidence suggesting that the suspected killer of a Teaneck man was framed could set him free from a lifetime in prison -- that is, if the judge will even consider the testimony.

In 2006, Afrim Tairi and two others were convicted of the fatal beating of Howard Lewis, co-owner of Paterson's Sealy Mattress Co. Four years later, Tairi was sentenced to life in prison.

Tairi's co-defendants recently told a "jailhouse lawyer" that he never actually killed Lewis -- he was framed, NJ.com reports .

Tairi's lawyers are fighting to toss the conviction and get him a new trial. Secondhand claims, however, can't be substantiated and don't meet legal standard for a new trial, the article says.

Paterson's Felix DeJesus and Edwin Torres, formerly a Sealy employee, were suspected of beating Lewis in his mother's Teaneck home before he ultimately chocked on his own vomit and died, records say. They both said -- in the same interrogation room -- that Tairi was the ringleader, NJ.com reports.

DeJesus and Torres were convicted while Tairi, a Macedonian native, was at large. He was later arrested in Switzerland and returned to the U.S. in 2006. Torres testified that Tairi was the ringleader in the Lewis' robbery -- along with another two Bergen County.

But during a Sept. 12 hearing, attorney Ernesto Cerimele said there was not a "single piece of evidence" connecting Tairi to the crimes, other than testimony, NJ.com says.

DeJesus admitted to fellow inmate Steven Kadonsky -- sentenced to life in prison for running a marijuana distribution warehouse in Piscataway -- that Torres framed Tairi because he was foreign, the report says. He also told the "jailhouse lawyer" that they met Tairi playing soccer in Paterson -- not a pool hall where they initially said he had orchestrated the robbery and others, NJ.com says.

Torres told Kadonsky that Paterson drug-dealer Alexander Cowan, now dead, was the third criminal -- not Tairi, the story says.

Superior Court Judge James Sattely last month said he has yet to consider Kadonsky's testimony, NJ.com says.

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