Convictions will be overturned for pair in 1965 assassination of Malcolm X

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NEW YORK — Two men found guilty in the 1965 assassination of Malcolm X in Harlem’s Audubon Ballroom have been cleared in a new investigation, and their convictions are expected to be thrown out Thursday, sources told the Daily News.

The announcement followed a 22-month probe by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. and attorneys for the two convicted men in a long-controversial murder case dating to the administration of Mayor Robert F. Wagner.

Prosecutors, along with the New York Police Department and the FBI, were exposed for withholding key exculpatory evidence against Muhammad Aziz and Khalil Islam, The New York Times reported.

The official word was expected to come Thursday at a news conference with Vance.

The FBI, prosecutors and the NYPD were implicated in the mishandling of the investigation, raising new questions about the killing that reverberates 56 years later and about who exactly was responsible for the cold-blooded shooting.

Prosecutors did not identify any possible new suspects in the killing as Malcolm X, a fiery Muslim leader, rose to address a crowd inside the ballroom, The Times said. But doubts were raised over the years about the convictions of the two soon-to-be-cleared men, known at the time as Norman 3X Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson.

Malcolm X was shot 16 times inside the Audubon Ballroom by three shooters as his wife and three of his daughters sat in the audience on Feb. 21, 1965.

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan acknowledged in 1994 that he “helped create the atmosphere” that led to Malcolm X’s murder, but denied any involvement.

Across the decades, an assortment of books and a documentary suggested the assassination was the work of everyone from the Nation of Islam to the FBI or another government organization.

The wrongfully convicted Islam died in 2009, 22 years after his release from prison. Aziz, now 83, was turned lose in 1985 after 19 years behind bars.

Police Department files reviewed in the investigation indicated the Daily News received a phone call on the morning of the murder with word that Malcolm X would be killed.