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After 10 Years in Jail On A Wrongful Conviction, Seattle Man Is Free

IPNW attorney Fernanda Torres with Brandon Olebar (center) and wife Mely (right)

After spending more than 10 years in prison on a wrongful conviction, Brandon Olebar of Seattle is home in time for Christmas.

Olebar had been convicted of robbery and burglary in 2003. The conviction was based on an ID by the victim, his sister's boyfriend, two days after the crime. 

But that identification turned out to be a case of "memory transference."

The victim "had what to him felt was an authentic memory of Brandon at the crime. When really he was recalling him from something different," said Fernanda Torres, an attorney with Innocence Project Northwest (IPNW), which worked to overturn Olebar's conviction.

Eyewitness misidentification is the leading cause of wrongful convictions, according to IPNW.

The group spent two years investigating and reviewing the case. It operates a clinic at the University of Washington Law School, which is how students Nikki Carsley and Kathleen Kline got involved. The law students uncovered new evidence, including obtaining sworn statements from three of the actual perpetrators who admitted Olebar was innocent.

In a written statement, the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office said the new evidence "cast enough doubts about Mr. Olebar's involvement in the crime." The office asked the court to vacate Olebar's conviction and dismiss all charges.

Olebar walked out of King County Jail on Friday into the arms of his wife, Mely.

Torres, the attorney, said Olebar's release was a huge Christmas present for Mely. But even so, the attorney took him Christmas shopping at an Issaquah mall on Monday. Brandon craved "ethnic food," and  chose Chinese. 

Olebar is the 13th person IPNW has exonerated from jail.