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Saturday, March 23, 2013

David Ranta suffers heart attack less than two days after being released in wrongful imprisonment for 1990 killing of Brooklyn Rabbi

Less than 48 hours after his first taste of freedom in two decades, David Ranta suffered a serious heart attack and had to be rushed to the hospital, his lawyer said Saturday.

Ranta, 58, was freed Thursday after serving 23 years for a murder he did not commit — and Friday night was admitted to a New York hospital in the grip of a crushing heart attack, lawyer Pierre Sussman told the Daily News.

Ranta survived the attack but is being kept in the hospital for further procedures, according to his lawyer.

Thursday was an overwhelming day for the father of three, who walked out of a courtroom and into the loving arms of family members — some of whom were children when he last hugged them.

"Right now, I feel like I'm under water, swimming,” he told reporters who crowded around him and his 11 family members.

His sister, Beverly Rivera, told the Daily News on Friday that her brother was adjusting to life on the outside.

“It's been fantastic!” said Beverly Rivera, from her Staten Island home.

Ranta got his first “real meal” in decades, she said.

“He had steak. A manly meal. Steak — and probably everything else on the menu," his sister laughed.

Ranta began to feel ill late Friday and the family rushed him to the hospital. They haven’t released the name for privacy reasons.

Ranta’s release from prison Thursday came after decades of protesting his innocence in the 1991 conviction of killing a beloved Brooklyn rabbi.

He was accused by cops of shooting Rabbi Chaskel Werzberger on Feb. 8, 1990 during a botched diamond robbery in Williamsburg.

Werzberger, a Holocaust survivor and popular leader of the Satmar Hasidic community, was shot point-blank in the forehead by an unknown gunman and hauled from his car. The killer took off in the vehicle.

Ranta was found guilty of the high-profile killing in May 1991 and sentenced to 37 years to life — even though there was no physical evidence linking Ranta to the crime.

His case was reopened by the the district attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit in 2012 after a meeting where prosecutors asked defense attorneys to notify them of questionable cases.

The district attorney found serious problems, especially with tactics used by lead detective Louis Scarcella, who stands by his investigation. A witness who was only 13 at the time recounted how a detective told him to “pick the guy with the big nose” out of a lineup.

“This was something I carried with me,” the witness, Menachem Lieberman, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper in an interview that aired Thursday night.

“Two years ago, I decided I have to get it off my chest.”

A woman testified four years after Ranta’s conviction that her husband confessed to the shooting before dying in a car crash two months later. A judge found the woman, a drug addict, wasn’t credible after a 1996 post-conviction hearing.

By Ginger Adams Otis / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

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