We continue Unethical Prosecutors Week with this jaw-dropping horror story from Brooklyn, New York.
In June 0f 2011, the accusations of a 22-year-old prostitute led to Damien Crooks and Jamali Brockett being arrested on charges of forcing the woman into prostitution when she was a 13-year-old girl, and then raping, assaulting and sexually trafficking her for the next 8 years. She also accused Jawara Brockett and Darrell Dula of raping her. They were also arrested and charged.
The day after she fingered Brockett and Dula, however, the 22-year-old prostitute confessed to detectives that she concocted the accusations against them. “I once again asked [her] if she was raped,” a detective wrote in a police report after the interview. “She told me ‘no’…” Then she signed a recantation.
Never mind. Even though they knew a conviction would be impossible after the alleged victim and accuser had recanted her own account, prosecutors continued to pursue the case. Dula was among the men indicted by a grand jury, based on the recanted testimony, in the spring of 2011. He remained in jail ever since, until Rebecca Gingold, who had recently replaced Assistant District Attorney Abbie Greenberger on the case, discovered the documentation that the prostitute had initially lied, and she turned it over to defense attorneys this month. As a result, Dula was released this month, and will undoubtedly have charges against him dropped—after being imprisoned for nearly a year based on a rape accusation prosecutors knew was false the day after it was made.
- Usually we shouldn’t set off the fireworks for someone who just does the obvious, required and ethical task that her duties mandate, but brava, Rebecca Gingold. She thoroughly embarrassed her own office, and some of her colleagues will have their heads rolling on the floor for this. She truncated a wrong that had already gone on too long, and in some environments, like the Brooklyn D.A.’s office, just doing one’s duty can require a lot of courage.
- I want to know what happens as a result of this episode. Dula should sue: in addition to his imprisonment, his face was plastered all over New York papers as a rapist, after his accuser had recanted. Every prosecutor involved should be disbarred, and without the possibility of reinstatement. Will they be? You never know with prosecutors; all across the country, they get away with blatant misconduct far too often.
- I know the arguments against prosecuting prosecutors for episodes like this by heart. For every slam-dunk case justifying throwing a vicious prosecutor into the slammer, there would be ten charges of criminal misconduct levied against ethical prosecutors who were arguably over-zealous, or who made a mistake, or who charged someone with political connections. Prosecutors would be afraid to do their jobs, and would become so cautious in fear of being prosecuted themselves that law enforcement and the public’s safety would suffer. I get it. Still, what happened to Dula is criminal conduct by prosecutors; there just aren’t any laws that cover it yet. Write the law narrowly, write it well, make it clear that only in cases of res ipsa loquitur wrongful prosecution, where the evidence “speaks for itself” and there can no reasonable dispute whether a defendant was prosecuted and jailed intentionally and unjustly in the absence of legitimate evidence, will an unethical prosecutor face jail time himself. Call it the Dula Law….or perhaps name it after any of hundreds of other victims of intentional prosecutorial abuse.