A New York City Police Commissioner has publicly apologized to a woman who was raped in 1994, admitting that he let her down.
“The survivor of the 1994 Prospect Park rape case suffered a terrible ordeal when she was brutally violated,” James O’Neill (pictured, left) wrote in a letter published on the NYPD’s website on Sunday, adding that his department “let her down in almost every possible way.”
“And there is zero justification for the additional trauma she endured when her word was doubted by authorities investigating her claim, and a writer for a major New York City daily newspaper, who — citing unnamed NYPD sources — predicted in print that she would soon be arrested for filing a false report,” O’Neill wrote.
New York Daily News columnist Mike McAlary wrote a story entitled “Rape hoax the real crime,” in which he accused the woman of making up the rape, according to Fox News. She had told police that she was walking home with groceries through Brooklyn's Prospect Park when she was dragged into the bushes and raped on April 26, 1994. She gave police a detailed description of her attacker. Police made a sketch, and DNA evidence was recovered, but no arrests were made, according to the New York Post.
Then, in January 2018, a break was made in the case. Detectives matched the DNA to serial rapist James Edward Webb (pictured, right), who's serving 75 years to life in Sing Sing prison. Webb had been charged with 10 other rapes over the course of several decades. He was arrested in 1995 and convicted for raping four other women. He told police he denied raping the woman in the 1994 case, and it's unclear whether he was ever previously considered a suspect.
Although the statute of limitations for the Prospect Park rape have long expired, the woman reportedly felt vindicated by his identification, reports the New York Post.
“She had the courage and strength to report a heinous crime, to push our detectives to conduct a full and thorough investigation, and to try to help apprehend her attacker and protect other women,” O’Neill wrote in his apology to the victim. “We were wrong then. I want us to be right today.”
O’Neill said that he and his department failed to have humanity for the victim in 1994.
“And I apologize for the NYPD's role in the quarter-century of questions that so wrongly surrounded your case,” he stated. “We know the damage that sexual assaults inflict on survivors. Compounding that damage with insensitive comments and wild conspiracy theories only further amplifies the cruelty and injustice of the initial crime itself. For that, I am deeply and profoundly sorry.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
[Photo: NYC Dept. of Corrections, Getty Images]
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