And it can happen to you as well. This is what happens when police and others do not thoroughly investigate issues to make sure they are 100% correct, innocent people go to jail!
By WENDY RUDERMAN
[name withheld] wants the world to know that he is not a rapist.
Ever since police mistook him for a wanted sex offender in 2008, he's told anyone who would listen that they have the wrong guy.
Now, after a three-year struggle to clear his name, [name withheld], 60, can breathe easier, even chuckle at the horrific mix-up that landed him in jail for a year and prompted his fiancee to leave. Earlier this month, city lawyers admitted that police made a mistake and agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by [name withheld].
"I'm not an angel," [name withheld] said. "Don't claim to be an angel. I've done some things, but see, I would never violate a woman. Even in my worst days, I would never violate a woman."
[name withheld]'s Kafkaesque nightmare began Aug. 4, 2008, when he opened up the Daily News and saw his mugshot under the headline "WEEK'S MOST WANTED."
The blurb stated that [name withheld] was wanted for allegedly raping a woman while holding a sword to her throat. The U.S. Marshals Service offered a "cash reward" for information leading to his arrest.
"It just blew my mind," [name withheld] said. "They had some kind of reward and everybody was trying to get it."
His North Philly neighbors pointed at him, and some tried to flag down police. "Yo, there he goes," some yelled. [name withheld] ducked into an alley. He made his way to his sister's house, where he began to cry.
"I just started shaking," [name withheld] said. "I kept on saying, 'What did I do? Why is this happening?' "
[name withheld] and his sister and brother decided to seek help from state Sen. Shirley Kitchen, D-Phila. They drove to her legislative office on Lehigh Avenue near Glenwood; [name withheld] scooched his head below the window of his sister's white Jeep.
- Why not seek help from a lawyer, or the Innocence Project?
Kitchen persuaded [name withheld] to turn himself in.
"There was a warrant out for his arrest, and it just wasn't a good idea for him to walk around wanted for such a serious crime," Kitchen said yesterday. "I thought it was going to be straightened out. I really did. . . . I had no idea that this would have led to him being incarcerated for a year."
[name withheld] said that he doesn't blame Kitchen for what happened next.
"It's not her fault," he said. "She probably thought that I'd be able to be heard once I got down there, but it didn't work like that."
Police shackled [name withheld]'s ankles to a metal bench inside a jail cell, where he sat for eight hours.
Police transported him to the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, on State Road, where he remained for five months, unable to post bail.
"It seemed like I was just thrown away," [name withheld] said. "I felt like I was the victim."
[name withheld]'s fiancee dumped him.
"Trust issues," he said, shrugging. On a chain around his neck, he still wears the engagement ring that he had planned to give her.
Then, on Jan. 15, 2009, the rape case against [name withheld] was dropped. His accuser twice failed to appear at a preliminary hearing, court records show.
Yet [name withheld] wasn't free to go. While in jail, he lost his plumbing job and had no money to make restitution payments on $2,180 stemming from a 2005 Bucks County retail-theft case. Failing to make payments was a parole violation, so he was shipped to the Bucks County jail, where he served eight more months.
It's unclear how his Bucks County mugshot got linked to an alleged rape by a different [name withheld].
Chief Deputy City Solicitor Craig Straw acknowledged that it was a mix-up.
"There was clearly a name and sort of identity issue between this [name withheld] and the other guy," Straw said. The city agreed to settle the case for $85,000, he said.
- $85,000 for all that trouble? They should've done what the justice system is suppose to be about, proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt, instead, they arrested him based on his name alone, I think.
The "other guy" lived in a West Philly home where the rape allegedly occured. Police questioned him and then released him pending further investigation. They later obtained an arrest warrant - and put out the wrong mugshot.
From the start, the facts in the case didn't match. The [name withheld] whom police arrested never lived at the address linked to the rape. He lived in North Philly. [name withheld]'s birthdate, Social Security number, signature, physical description and telephone number don't match the information on the police documents.
"I'm not even a detective and I could even figure that out," said [name withheld]'s attorney, Alan Denenberg.
"I'm not going to sit here and rip the Police Department," Denenberg said. "They have a heavy caseload. I recognize that. But sometimes you have to go the extra yard, especially when you have someone who is being charged with such a serious crime as rape."
- You should go the extra yard on every single case!!!