By Mike Hellgren

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — In a new interview, Marshall “Eddie” Conway maintains he was railroaded and a political prisoner. A bad jury instruction led to a deal with Baltimore’s top prosecutor to release him.

Mike Hellgren has the controversy over Conway’s freedom.

After more than four decades in prison, former Black Panther leader Eddie Conway is free and claims the government set him up and that he played no role in the killing of Baltimore City police officer Donald Sager.

Conway spoke on WEAA-FM.

“As a political prisoner, I consider myself a victim. A tremendous amount of pain and suffering has been endured by me and also by my family,” Conway said.

It was April 24, 1970, when Officer Sager and his partner were sitting in a patrol car on Myrtle Avenue. A group of men came up to them and started firing. Key to the prosecution was testimony from an officer who said Conway exchanged shots with him in an alley nearby.

“There was a concerted effort across the country–we didn’t know it was coordinated at the time–to destroy the Black Panther party,” Conway said.

While Conway maintains evidence was circumstantial, there’s strong reaction from Baltimore’s Fraternal Order of Police, whose president believes he’s guilty.

“I am extremely hurt to find that someone who took someone’s life is able to walk free smiling on this day. It almost makes me sick,” Sager’s granddaughter Bailey said.

“This is a very upsetting and disgusting situation. Justice was not served. I’m very appalled by the actions of the state of Maryland,” said his granddaughter Morgan.

Conway’s supporters fought years for his freedom. What secured it was a Court of Appeals ruling that his jury received an improper instruction. The conviction will stand, but Conway struck a deal with prosecutors to let him go, rather than face a retrial.

“It actually wasn’t until I walked out on the sidewalk that I finally said, `OK, this is real,'” Conway said.

Conway says his future includes working in the community to end violence and mentoring youth.

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