Sunday, November 23, 2008
Ruined - The Story of Francis Evelyn
False accusations. Cops and prosecutors using the power of the state to try to break innocent people. A media that won’t ask the tough questions. We’ve seen it all before: Virginia McMartin and her grandson Ray Buckey; Richard Jewel; the Duke “rape” hoax. The Evelyn case cries out for an investigation that will never happen.
On March 23, 2008, Francis Evelyn, 58, was arrested. In the late afternoon, cops arrived at his workplace, New York City’s Public School 91, placed the janitor in handcuffs and “perp walked” him to a squad car.
As he was led away, local news reporters were given a briefing by Commissioner Raymond Kelly. Evelyn, the commish said, had been arrested for the “heinous” rapes of an eight-year-old student. The attacks had occurred numerous times in a rest room in the school’s basement. “I think the [child’s] mother was told and didn’t fully believe the child early on,” Kelly said. “But evidence was developed and when the detective went to the school the other day she [the accuser] actually saw the individual and pointed him out.”
Evelyn later described his arrest: “Before they take me [out of school] I asked them, ‘What are you locking me up for?’ They said they’re taking me in for questioning. I said, ‘For what? I didn’t do nothing wrong. Why are you taking me down for questioning?’ ‘Put your hands behind your back.’ Bam! Handcuffs. That was it. The next thing I know we’re in this place, three officers questioning me, telling me I’m a liar.”
The headlines of the city's newspapers were unanimous: “Brooklyn Janitor Charged with Rape.” Television crews raced to get quotes for the six o’clock news. “How did this happen?” one parent standing outside PS 91 asked. “Where were all the adults when all of this was happening? How was a janitor able to lure this child to a bathroom?” Parents of the mostly black school threatened to pull their kids out.
Evelyn, a native of Trinidad, had no police record. The child who fingered him had initially said her attacker was white and bald. Evelyn is black and generally wears a baseball-style cap.
In the past, the child had also accused her father of sexually assaulting her. An investigation proved she was lying. Then she falsely claimed to have been raped by a classmate. The girl had made so many other unfounded accusations of sexual misconduct that even the school’s principal didn’t take her claims seriously.
In an interview a few days later, Evelyn described his ordeal at the hands of police interrogators. “I said, ‘Officer, these kids come down by twos to go to the bathroom if they get a permit...The bathroom has teachers, kids, it has [staff] from the kitchen, it’s as busy as the lunchroom.’ [Cops told me] it’ll only take you fifteen minutes to do what you have to do.”
In an unusual step, he was taken to Riker’s Island, one of the toughest prisons in the country. Corrections officers cursed him. Other inmates threatened him, calling him a baby-rapist and saying they would shank him. He was continually subjected to verbal abuse by guards and inmates.
The next day, police informed Evelyn that they’d found his DNA on the girl’s panties. They told him he was certain to be convicted and sent to prison for the rest of his life. Detectives stated that they would make sure he’d be thrown in prison with the worst of the worst. He’d be beaten and raped and maybe even murdered. But if he confessed, they’d make him a “deal.”
For two days and nights, police hammered Evelyn. Their continued leaks to the press about his alleged crimes kept the story boiling. A monster was being created by the cops and the media.
Then as suddenly as it began, it was over. Evelyn was hustled into a courtroom late one night and all charges were dropped. There had been no DNA. There was no evidence of any kind. Cops had finally got around to interviewing the accuser and found her wild tales implausible.
The media, lapdogs for a corrupt police department, finally spoke with the accused. Nancy L. Katz, a staff writer for the New York Daily News, reported: “Francis Evelyn looks at the world differently now ever since he was falsely accused of raping an 8-year-old child...[He] once walked proud, worked hard and looked forward to a peaceful retirement. Now he’s too scared to go out his front door. Five months after his face was broadcast worldwide as an accused child rapist, Evelyn, 58, can’t sleep. He can’t stop the tears. He can’t wipe away the nightmare of being arrested, jailed and wrongly accused.”
Since his ordeal, Evelyn has given several interviews to reporters. He comes across as respectful of the law, sensitive, dignified. He wonders why police didn’t investigate the child’s story before arresting him and subjecting him to such a horrendous interrogation. He is currently suing the city for ten million dollars.
Here are a few questions the New York media might ask: how many others in that precinct have been convicted based only on the testimony of one or more eyewitnesses? How many have taken plea bargains merely to stop the questioning by so-called detectives? And finally, how many more people will this little girl falsely accuse as she makes her way through life?
Posted by Robert A. Waters at 2:13 AM