Springfield taxpayer money funding Wilhite’s $1.4M settlement

Comes from the city of Springfield's Emergency Stabilization Account of about $43-million

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – A Springfield man wrongfully convicted of murder is now getting nearly $1.4 million.

In 2008, Charles Wilhite was accused and charged with killing a man outside of the now boarded up Pine Street Market. By 2010, he was convicted and sentenced to spend life in prison.

His family protested and claimed he was innocent. Wilhite was eventually granted a new trail and a second jury determined in 2013 that he didn’t do it. Wilhite was acquitted.

He served nearly 4 years in prison and on Monday, the Springfield City Council voted to compensate him with $1.4-million.

“I would take it. I’ll do 4 years standing on my head for $1.4 million. Yeah, I would,” said Edward Arce of Springfield.

22News discovered its taxpayer-funded money that comes from the City of Springfield’s emergency stabilization account of about $43-million.

“It’s all taxpayer money and it’s an emergency reserve setup for unforeseen expenses and this would certainly qualify for one of those expenses,” said Springfield City Councilor Tim Rooke.

Rooke said that unlike other cities and towns, Springfield isn’t insured. There was talk about getting settlement insurance years ago under the former Springfield Finance Control Board, but it never happened.

Meanwhile, Wilhite’s attorney told 22News they originally asked for more money. “Nothing can fully compensate someone for being wrongfully convicted and then sentenced to spend the rest of their natural life in prison for a crime they did not commit,” said civil rights attorney Howard Friedman.

He said settlement money is often used by wrongful conviction clients to get a home, a car, start a business or go back to school.

22News found out Wilhite might be getting even more money. His legal team is attempting to settle a separate wrongful conviction lawsuit with the state of Massachusetts for up to $500,000. A case that should be resolved within a year.