A teenager once tied to the murder of a rabbi thanks to a cartoonish police sketch has since been cleared of all charges — and now he’s suing.
De'Andre Charles was arrested in 2015 for the Miami-Dade murder of Joseph Raksin, a prominent New York City rabbi who was visiting the city in 2014. He was shot to death while walking to temple. Charles was 14 at the time.
Prosecutors dropped the charges in 2017 and admitted that their case was weak.
“Unfortunately, at this time, the trial team does not believe it can prove [the defendant’s] guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,” prosecutors wrote in a closeout memo as reported by the Miami Herald in 2017.
Charles was linked to the murders with a witness-drawn sketch that Charles’ lawyer now compares to a “Sesame Street” character.
"They held this event that looked like an old 'perp walk,'" Charles' lawyer, James DeMiles, now tells the Miami New Times, referencing a 2015 press conference in which officials announced the arrest of his client. "They had this poster-size picture of Deandre. They said they had this DNA, this great case against him, but they didn’t have it. There were members of Miami-Dade County onstage, members of Miami-Dade PD onstage. Then they whipped out that sketch that the witness drew that looked like a Sesame Street character. So my client gets ridiculed. He was the butt of jokes of Kevin Hart. He was internationally known."
Now, Charles has filed a lawsuit that accused those authorities of being too desperate to make an arrest due to pressure from the public and the victim’s family. The lawsuit claims that pressure "created a working environment that became the moving force behind the grossly negligent or deliberately indifferent investigation conducted by Defendant, Detective Michael Brajdic, causing the false arrest, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution of the plaintiff, and violating the plaintiff's Fourth and 14th Amendment rights," according to WPLG in Miami.
The lawsuit also claims that police knew that it was a group of four that were involved in Raksin's death and that one of the men admitted to being involved, the Miami New Times reports. The lawsuit even alleges that one of the men is linked to the scene with DNA evidence, according to that report. However, officials allegedly chose to indict Charles based on the sketch and DNA evidence that was later thrown out.
Initially, prosecutors pointed to cell phone records and a partial DNA profile on gun pieces which allegedly put Charles at the scene. However, after a change in lab protocols, analysts declared that Charles "cannot be included or excluded from the DNA mixture found on the firearm parts,” according to the closeout memo.
No other suspects have ever been arrested in connection with Raksin’s murder.
In 2017, Charles’ attorney Adam Goodman told the Miami Herald that “they should never have arrested Deandre, ever. It’s sad for the next of kin, the Raksin family, and it’s sad for Deandre.”
Charles' family maintains he was home with them when the murder occurred.
Pictured is the 2015 press conference in which officials announced the arrest of Charles and compared his picture to the witness-drawn sketch.
[Photo: Associated Press]
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