A false arrest in New York 14 years ago has a happy ending for a Long Island man. Johnny O’Neal was falsely imprisoned 14 years ago for a rape, a rape of which he was recently cleared. Mr. O’Neal now plans to sue New York officials (including “those responsible”) for mishandling the investigation and stealing 14 years of his life from him.
O’Neal, now 54, was arrested in 1984 for allegedly raping a woman atop an Upper West Side roof. He denied any such claims but was tried and sentenced. He suffered false imprisonment in New York for 14 years and was released in 1998. However, it was just last month when a Manhattan Supreme Court Justice reinvestigated the case, declaring that O’Neal couldn’t have committed the crime.
The case was reopened with help from the Legal Aid Society. During the subsequent investigation attorneys uncovered a “mountain” of evidence that pointed to Gregory “Pee Wee” Smith (who died 14 years ago) was the true criminal behind the heinous incident-including an alleged confession to an associate. All charges against O’Neal were dropped and his criminal record was expunged. However, his 14-year false imprisonment in a New York cell left a bitter taste in his mouth.
While O’Neal reported that he was so happy his record had been cleared that he “cried and cried”. In a public statement earlier this month he stated his intention to file a false arrest and false imprisonment case.
This tragic case demonstrates that the legal system can be flawed and that human error, confusing evidence, or an individual’s maliciousness can result in innocent individuals being incarcerated, charged with crimes they didn’t commit. If you or a loved one has been falsely arrested or suffered false imprisonment in New York City, contact the law office of Nussin S. Fogel as soon as possible. While a lawsuit won’t get your lost time back, it can help you cope with the financial consequences of incarceration and the shame of being falsely accused.