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Very Real

"I Love New York" Reality Star Awarded $10 Million After Being Framed For Murder

Jamal Trulove spent six years in jail for the 2007 murder of Seu Kuka, the same year Trulove competed on VH1's reality show "I Love New York."

By Gina Tron

Jamal Trulove, 33, has definitely had an eventful life.

In 2007, he was an aspiring rapper who landed a role on the VH1 reality show “I Love New York 2” under the moniker “Milliown.” He briefly vied for the affection of Tiffany “New York” Pollard. That very same year, he also became a murder suspect.

On July 23, 2007 at around 11 p.m., Seu Kuka, 28, was shot to death on the street in front of a San Francisco, California public housing project. He had been shot nine times; seven of those shots were fired from a distance, according to the National Registry of Exonerations.

Even though there were about thirty people present on the street when the gunfire erupted, only one witness, who saw the shooting from a second-floor window, came forward. Priscilla Lualemaga told police she saw Kuka chase a man around a car and then knock another man over. When the man got up, he started shooting at Kuka. She later identified Trulove as the possible shooter. In 2008, he was charged with Kuka’s death. Lualemaga testified against him in 2010 — according to the San Francisco Gate, her first identification was tentative, but was "affirmed after seeing Trulove three months later as a guest on the reality TV show 'I Love New York 2'." Trulove was sentenced to prison from 50 years to life for murder.

And then the truth came out. Trulove’s attorney filed a state petition after finding several witnesses who claimed they saw the gunman, and that he wasn’t Trulove. In 2014, the state appeals court decided to hear the case. They decided that the prosecution had committed misconduct for making up that their star witness risked her life by testifying.

During a new trial, a ballistics expert testified that the witness would not have been able to get a good view of who killed Kuka. On March 11, 2015, Trulove was acquitted. In all, Trulove spent six years in prison — 4 of which he spent without family visitation because he was incarcerated in a remote location. A year later, he fired a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city and the county.

On April 6, a federal jury awarded him $10 million after determining that police framed him for murder. The jury decided that Michael Johnson and Maureen D'Amico, investigators on Kuka’s murder case, fabricated evidence against Trulove, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. In a February ruling that allowed the case to go to trial, U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers cited evidence that the investigators asked Lualemaga “Are you sure it wasn’t Jamal Trulove?” When she said she didn't know, instead of showing her photographs of different people, D’Amico showed her a photo array including Trulove and other people she had already dismissed as being the shooter. There was also evidence of another potential suspect who was never investigated, the Judge said.

Both Johnson and D’Amico are now retired. 

“It’s about time,” said Kate Chatfield, a lawyer for Trulove told the San Francisco Gate. “Justice is not (merely) being acquitted for a crime you did not do. This was finally justice.” Trulove, according to his Twitter bio pictured above, is trying to get back into music. And he's also giving back. Chatfield says that he now works at an after-school program for at-risk children in San Francisco.

John Coté, spokesman for City Attorney Dennis Herrera, told the San Francisco Gate that this week’s verdict was disappointing. He added that the city is "analyzing the jury's findings and will determine from there how to proceed."

[Photo: Twitter]