Judge drops all charges against former death row inmate prosecutors said wanted to build prostitution empire

‘They picked the wrong person to frame.’

Judge drops all charges against former death row inmate Isaiah McCoy

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In a stunning development, a death row exoneree who prosecutors alleged wanted to build his own prostitution empire in Hawaii walked out of Honolulu federal court on Tuesday a free man.

U.S. District Court Judge Susan Oki Mollway dropped all charges against Isaiah McCoy, who alleged law enforcement and prosecutorial misconduct and claimed evidence against him was illegally obtained.

McCoy, who represented himself in court, also said evidence was not made available to him to defend himself.

“They picked the wrong person to frame,” said McCoy outside the federal courthouse, an arm around his wife and still wearing his detention center-issued clothes.

“I’m here and I’m a free man. Legally! Because of the law. I’m battle tested and I win my battles in the courtroom.”

Prosecutors did not explain in court their decision to ask that the charges against McCoy be dropped.

(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

But in a statement released Tuesday afternoon, the Hawaii U.S. District Attorney’s Office said the dismissal of charges was “deemed appropriate in light of information the U.S. Attorney’s Office became aware of in the past several days.”

“Despite today’s dismissal, this office will continue the important work of investigating and prosecuting human trafficking crimes in Hawaii," Hawaii U.S. District Attorney Kenji Price said, in the statement. "We remain committed to tirelessly pursuing those who break the law, all the while vigilantly upholding the fundamental principles of integrity and justice that govern everything we do.”

The abrupt end to a case that has generated intense interest in recent months is a major black eye for federal prosecutors, who had sought to paint McCoy as the mastermind behind a plan to develop a major prostitution ring in the islands.

McCoy had been indicted in an expansive federal case, and was facing 10 counts, including forced sex trafficking, threatening witnesses and fraud.

His wife, Tawana Roberts, an Army sergeant was charged with prostitution. The charges against Roberts were dropped earlier this year after similar problems with evidence not being turned over to the defense were raised.

Roberts said Tuesday that while the charges were dropped, she was discharged from the Army after 17 years.

She said that she always knew that McCoy would be let free.

“I prayed for this day,” she said. “I prayed for this day and I am so happy for Isaiah.”

McCoy told Hawaii News Now that he plans to file a false arrest lawsuit against the government.

McCoy first made headlines in the islands in September 2017, when he was arrested as part of a Honolulu raid as police investigated a murder.

McCoy insisted that he and his friend, accused gunman Jordan Smith, were innocent. The murder trial against Smith ended in a hung jury earlier this year.

In an interview with Hawaii News Now last year, McCoy said police and prosecutors targeted him and his associates because they are African American.

Two years ago, before moving to Hawaii, McCoy successfully argued his way off death row in Delaware.

Read more:

Former death row inmate slammed with more sex trafficking charges

This story will be updated.

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