Noted: Charges finally dropped in Crown Heights “Hassidim Woman v. Four Black Men” false rape case

From the WNYC News Blog

Charges Dropped in Crown Heights Rape Case
Tuesday, June 26, 2012 – 11:00 AM
By Mirela Iverac

Prosecutors on Tuesday dismissed the case against four black men from Crown Heights accused of raping and prostituting an Orthodox Jewish woman for eight years, starting when she was 13.

All charges against Damien Crooks, Darrell Dula, and the two brothers, Jawara and Jamali Brockett, were dropped in Brooklyn Supreme Court, months after it was revealed the accuser recanted her rape allegations a day after she made them, and that the information was never given to defense lawyers.

Outside the courtroom Crooks, 32, and Dula, 25, who spent 10 months in jail before they were released in April, said they were relieved.

“I feel overjoyed,” Dula said. “I feel justice has been done. I just want to start a new chapter in my life and put all this behind me.”

The two were released when problems with the case began to arise. The brothers remain in jail on unrelated charges.

District Attorney Charles Hynes said in a statement that in April his office discovered that exculpatory information, the alleged victim’s recantation of some accusations, was not turned over to the defense attorneys. After reinvestigating the case, Hynes stated, “we have concluded as a result that we can no longer proceed with this case.”

Dula and Jawara Brockett were charged with rape in June 2011. Crooks faced rape and sex trafficking charges, and Jamali Brockett was charged with rape, compelling prostitution and criminal sexual act.

The case has attracted much attention due to the seriousness of the charges and the involvement of four older, black men and a young, Orthodox Jewish woman, all of whom lived in Crown Heights.

“They [the District Attorney’s office] labeled Damien a rapist, a pimp, a sex trafficker,” said Elliot Kay, Crooks’ attorney. “All those allegations were false in their entirety, and today Damien fells vindicated that finally the truth has come out.”

Kay said his client’s relationship with the victim included consensual sex when she was of age, and that there was “nothing criminal” about it.

“It wasn’t good for what she did, but I forgive her,” Crooks said, in a message to his accuser, who he described as a friend.

Shortly after the case was concluded, a group of anti-trafficking advocates gathered in front of the DA’s office to criticize the dismissal.

A statement from the victim’s father was also read: “Despite my daughter’s total cooperation, the Brooklyn DA has surrendered against our will and without our consent.”

The girl’s father also wrote that his daughter shared with the DA’s office her mental health history and was assured it would not stand in the way of prosecuting the case.

Earlier, the WYNC blog reported

Crown Heights Rape Case Verges on Collapse
Thursday, June 21, 2012 – 05:30 PM
By Janet Babin

A 36 count indictment accusing four black men of raping and prostituting an Orthodox Jewish girl in Crown Heights is now in question.

“Charges against all four will be dropped,” said criminal defense attorney Elliot Kay, who represents 33-year-old Damien Crooks, one of the defendants named in the sex trafficking case.

The Brooklyn District Attorney’s office would not comment on the case, saying only that a hearing for all four men would be held on Tuesday. The men allegedly committed the offenses over an eight year period beginning in 2003 when the girl was then 13 years old.

In an indictment handed down last June, the DA’s office charged Crooks and Darrell Dula with sex trafficking, rape, robbery, assault and stalking. Two other defendants, brothers Jamali and Jawara Brockett, were charged with rape.

Kings County District Attorney Charles Hynes said last June that the defendants “forced [the victim] to perform sexually humiliating acts” if she refused to have sex with others for money.

Attorney Kay said the accuser recanted part of her testimony, but that exculpatory evidence was not initially provided to him or other attorneys representing the defendants.

Based on that evidence that was eventually released by the DA’s office earlier this year, a judge released Crooks from prison on April 26, 2012.

“But he had already spent about 11 months in jail before he was released,” Kay said, adding that his client was relieved at the news.

Kay said he thought all along that his client was innocent. He added the DA’s case didn’t add up either.

“After looking at the police paperwork that was initially provided to us, none if it matched the story that the accuser had told to the grand jury,” Kay said.