Charges dismissed for man now barred from collecting cash in controversial rape case
Seven years after a Crown Heights man’s charges were dismissed after spending 10 months on Rikers Island for repeatedly raping and sex trafficking his Orthodox Jewish neighbor, a Brooklyn judge tossed his civil rights lawsuit.
Damien Crooks and four others, all black men, were accused in 2010 by a 22-year-old woman of beating, raping and prostituting her for several years.
As prosecutors reinvestigated the woman’s claims, she signed a recantation document with detectives where she admitted to forming a bond with her alleged captures — known as traumatic bonding — and had consensual sex with Crooks. Under pressure from the police to continue to press charges or get arrested for prostitution, the case continued, according to court documents.
The recantation document was not turned over to the case’s lead prosecutor Lauren Hersh until after the grand jury indicted the case.
That information was also unbeknownst to the men and their defense attorneys at their criminal court arraignment on June 29, 2011, where $1 million bail was set, until their release from Rikers Island on April 26, 2012.
At the time of the men’s arrest, their images were on display for a press conference held by then District Attorney Charles Hynes and publicized in the media.
Crooks filed a lawsuit in 2013 against the city, NYPD, Hynes, ex-prosecutor Hersh and others for the false arrest, malicious prosecution and civil rights violations. At the time of Crooks’s criminal dismissal a source told The New York Daily News that “because the reason for dismissal was ‘in the interest of justice’ and not for lack of evidence…chances to succeed in a civil case against the DA” was low.
Brooklyn Civil Supreme Court Judge Paul Wooten dismissed all of the charges presented in Crooks’s lawsuit on Oct. 31, according to court records.
Hynes admitted in a 2015 deposition that Hersh’s “failure to disclose [the victim]’s recantation constituted a Brady violation, as well as a violation of the [office]’s open file policy.”
But, according to Judge Wooten’s decision, the failure to turn over the woman’s recantation actually was not a violation because the information was given before the case went to trial. In fact, Hersh was cleared of all wrongdoing both by an internal investigation and in an ethics investigation by the Disciplinary Committee of the NYS Supreme Court Appellate Division.
Attorneys for Crooks declined to comment on the court’s decision.
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