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Elmira ex-con fights to clear his name for a crime he says his own brother committed

ELMIRA, N.Y. (18 News) - Steven Hurlburt, 65, was sentenced to 3 years behind bars in the Elmira State Correctional Facility, for a crime he says he did not commit.

"My reaction was I didn't do it, and I told them I'd give them the name of the person who I thought had stolen my identity, and I asked them to investigate it," Hurlburt said.

That person, was his own brother, Albert Hurlburt.

In 1979, Steven was working for the Postal Service in Jamestown when police accused him of cashing a stolen government check for more than $1,600. It was cashed at the Chemung Canal Bank.

He was found guilty by a jury at the Chemung County Courthouse in 1980. He served 1 year in state prison, and 2 years on parol. Now, almost 40 years later, he spends almost every waking hour trying to prove his innocence. Even imagining the words, "not guilty," brings tears to Hurburt's eyes.

Hurlburt served his time, but in the decades since, he has never stopped trying to clear his name.

"Then the healing process would begin," Hurlburt said.

Hurlburt's wife was pregnant with triplets when he was incarcerated. He is now separated and realizes he has neglected his children over the years.

"It's affected my family because it is all I think about," he said. "I don't know how to explain it, I'm suffering from post traumatic stress."

His wife and children never questioned his innocence.

"They feel I probably should have moved on, but I just can't in light of new evidence," Hurlburt said.

After years of searching for answers, he believes he has hit the jackpot, hidden in police reports. He found a confession from his brother, admitting to previously stealing his identity.

Detective Miller, an Elmira Police Detective spoke to Steven's brother, Albert, and in a written statement summarized, "Albert Hurlburt stated he did use the name Steve Hurlburt to register motor vehicles in the past, he also admitted to obtaining a marriage license in Kingman, Arizona on 10-25-78 under the name Steven R. Hurlburt."

"Once my brother confessed, they should have turned it over to me," Hurlburt said. "They should have allowed me to know that information so I could give it to the jury."

The key witness for the prosecution was bank teller Sandra Green, who cashed the check. Green testified in court that she did not see a drivers license when cashing it.

In the trial transcript, the prosecutor, James Hayden asked Green:

"Did you see a drivers license?"

"No," Green responded.

"Did you ask for one?" Hayden asked.

"No," Green answered.

However, that is not what Green told a bank investigator before the trial. In a report, Clair Johnson, the bank investigator, stated, "Sandy did get a P.A. license as ID. At this time it is not known if she wrote the number down or just looked at it and it did have the same name of Steve Hurlburt on this."

"If it would have come out that she saw a drivers license, I would've admitted I didn't have a PA license," Hurlburt said. "I could have investigated that and it could have gotten back to my brother who stole my identity."

Another inconsistency was found in Green's statements. Green first identified Hurlburt by a mugshot, taken two years after the crime. In the mugshot Hurlburt had a mustache, and it was labeled as number 1311.

In a sworn statement to the Elmira Police Department, Green stated, "On August 6th, 1979 I came to the Elmira police detective bureau where I viewed photographs of white male subjects from a mug book and I picked out photograph number 1311."

Hurlburt's Doctor, Dr. Frisk, testified in court that he saw Hurlburt around the same time he is accused of cashing the check.

In court he stated, "He was a clean cut, all American boy, straight hair, no facial hair."

In trial, Green described Hurlburt, and it matched Dr. Frisk's description. She said he was clean shaven, despite choosing the mugshot, where he had a full mustache.

In trial, the prosecutor asked Green:

"Do you remember if this person has a mustache?"

"No," Green answered.

"No you don't remember?"

"No, he didn't have a mustache," Green replied.

"Can you describe the hair style of the person who cashed this check?"

"Very clean cut, short," she said.

"It would be different if it was just an honest mistake, but the evidence I have now proves the witness was allowed to lie, after given sworn statements, to the police, to the grand jury, to the bank investigator, and allowed to change her statements at trial," Hurlburt said.

Hurlburt filed an appeal a few weeks ago for a new trial.

"I dreamt once that it got reversed, and then I realized it was just a dream, same old thing," he said.

The Chemung County District Attorneys's office must respond by Friday to the motion.

It was not the first motion Hurlburt filed after being found guilty. He filed a similar motion for a new trial in 2016, that a judge turned down.

District Attorney, Weeden Wetmore, told 18 News, that there is no new evidence here and these issues have already been presented to a judge and denied.


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