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Fight for justice: Documentary recounts two NYPD detectives’ effort to clear their names in Denver murders

A scene from the documentary series “Between Black and Blue.” (Courtesy of Benaroya Pictures)

In 1975, two New York City detectives were convicted of the murder of Denver businessman Hal Levine.

Mike Borrelli, an Italian American New York Police Department detective, and his former partner, Bob Davis, one of the first Black detectives in New York, spent decades fighting to clear their names.

The search was on to find one of the confessed gunmen, who was placed into witness protection by law enforcement over 40 years ago.

This was the man filmmaker Sheldon Wilson wanted to find.

Denver businessman Hal Levine. (Courtesy of Benaroya Pictures)

“I started this in 2007 when I came across a little story from an old newspaper article that talked about the ‘Colorado Godfather,’ ” Wilson says. “I knew as much as the next guy. It seemed like a crazy story that needed answers.”

The result is the four-episode documentary series “Between Black and Blue.” The series is available on Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, Google Play, Vimeo, Vudu and YouTube.

Wilson says the unbelievable story involves crooked cops, a Mafia godfather, murder, an alleged public poisoning, Elvis Presley, prison gang leaders and a cocaine-addicted newspaper editor who printed it all.

Mike Borrelli awaits a judgment in his case. (Courtesy of Benaroya Pictures)

When no physical evidence is found connecting Borrelli or Davis to the murder, complete immunity is given to one of the confessed murderers in exchange for his testimony. He’s a known criminal who had previously been diagnosed as a pathological liar.

Four years into Borelli’s life sentence, he receives a new trial and is found innocent.

Astonishingly, the courts refuse to give Davis a new trial even though Borrelli, the man accused of hiring him to do “the hit,” has been exonerated.

Bob Davis in the courthouse in 1975. (Courtesy of Benaroya Pictures)

Davis feels the color of his skin is standing in the way of the justice he so rightly deserves.

In a surprising turn of events, Borrelli returns to the force, becoming the only person ever convicted of murder to become a police officer again.

Borrelli commits the rest of his life to proving Davis’ innocence.

Through all of this, both men remained the best of friends, transforming their lives into deeply inspiring success stories.

“It was incredibly difficult, and it was such a complicated story with so many character and so many tangents,” Wilson says. “We ended up having to go and break things down by subject. … We wanted to make sure that a complete story was told.”

To tell that story, Wilson wanted to find the man who was put into the U.S. Federal Witness Protection Program.

Terry “Blue” D’Prero suspect wall. (Courtesy of Benaroya Pictures)

“I was very determined, and people told me I was nuts and never going to find him,” he says. “I eventually found him.”

Wilson also wanted to tell Davis’ struggle to be found innocent.

“It’s a little disheartening, because we are still battling systemic racism,” Wilson says. “It’s still a flawed judicial system. It’s a decades-old story, and for the people involved, it feels like it happened just yesterday. It’s a story we need to keep in the public’s eye.”

Wilson got help on the project from his wife, Marie Lou Gingras.

The pair are already looking at doing another film.

Nunzio Saccone, Mike Borrelli and Bob Davis. (Courtesy of Benaroya Pictures)

“There’s another case I’d like to get into,” he says. “She was very much ready to do another one. There are so many cases like this, it’s almost hard to pick which one. I feel like I should be focusing on at least one of them.”

After 13 years of work on the series, Wilson is excited to have it available for viewers’ consumption.

“No one gets into documentary filmmaking to get rich,” he says. “It’s the stories that we are telling that make a difference. My biggest regret is that it wasn’t out before Bob Davis died in June.”

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