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NEW YORK – A New York City man who spent more than 18 years in prison was freed on Thursday after prosecutors vacated his 2004 murder conviction due to faulty witness identification and poor work by authorities.

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Sheldon Thomas, 35, of Brooklyn, was one of three alleged gang members charged with killing Anderson Bercy, 14, and wounding Kadeem Drummond in Brooklyn on Dec. 24, 2004, prosecutors said in a statement.

Thomas had been sentenced to 25 years to life, the New York Times reported.

On Thursday, Thomas got to experience freedom after nearly two decades, NBC News reported. He was 17 when he was arrested.

“I’ve waited a long time for this day to happen,” Thomas told the court, according to the newspaper. “And there’s so many times that I was in my cell, I would think of this moment — what I would say, who would be there.”

Thomas said his faith never wavered during his time in prison, and that allowed him to forgive the detectives, prosecutors and the judge who sent him to prison.

“God will judge them,” Thomas told the court. “Just as he has judged me right now.”

The case “was compromised from the very start by grave errors and lack of probable cause” to arrest him, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez said in a statement.

The case was the 34th conviction vacated after re-investigations by the district attorney’s conviction review unit, the Times reported.

In a statement, prosecutors said that evidence “indicated that two guns were used and that the shooters were inside a white car. A witness initially identified two men she knew, who did not include defendant Thomas, as being in the car.”

Thomas “was arrested based on a witness identification of a different person with the same name — a mistake that was first concealed and then explained away during the proceedings,” the statement said.

In a 63-page report, the Conviction Review Unit discovered several errors, including false testimony from a detective and credibility concerns for a witness, CourtTV reported.

The review unit indicated there was poor police work because a detective asked to unseal Thomas’ previous arrest in order to use his picture in a photo grouping, NBC News reported.

“Before that request was completed, detectives obtained a photo of another Sheldon Thomas from a police database,” prosecutors said. “They showed an array with that photo to the witness, who identified the wrong Thomas as being in the car with 90% certainty. Based on her identification, the detectives went to the defendant’s address– not to the address of the Sheldon Thomas whose photo the witness had identified — and arrested him.”

The district attorney’s office on Thursday said that detectives, prosecutors and the original trial judge knew that the photo was not the Sheldon Thomas they wanted to arrest, the Times reported. Instead, it was a man with the same name who had an address in the same precinct.

The incorrect identification was not made public until a pretrial hearing in June 2006, NBC News reported.

Under cross-examination, Detective Robert Reedy admitted that he had falsely testified, stating that Thomas was not in the photo array that had been shown to witnesses, CourtTV reported.

Despite the testimony, the judge found probable cause for Thomas’ arrest, The Associated Press reported.

Reedy, then retired, was later disciplined after an investigation. A telephone call seeking comment was left Thursday with a number listed for a Robert Reedy, according to the news organization.

Thomas left the court with his arm around his grandmother.

“When I was in my cell, I would think of this moment and replay the conversations I would have with myself, what I would say,” Thomas said in court. “Right now, I’m speechless.”

He also offered condolences to the victim’s family, according to NBC News.

“I believe that since my incarceration, they have been under the impression that they were given justice for their son and come to find out today, and all this time, they really had the wrong person that was convicted for killing their son,” Thomas said. “And it’s not just my life that was ripped apart by … the miscarriage of justice. It was them, as well.”