It was a little past midnight on January 28. 2012. It was a “normal” night. A horrible crime was about to happen. A good police officer trying to do his duty to protect and serve the community of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania was about to be assaulted. He saw a car that was violating the law. He tried to stop the car according to his sworn duty. The car did stop. The driver started to get out. He was ordered back into the car. Other officers joined the scene. Then tragedy struck. In an act of complete cowardliness, the driver jumped back into the car put the car into reverse and rammed a police car, nearly striking one police officer. Then the coward, put the car into drive. Another officer jumped into action smashing the driver’s side car window. The coward put the pedal to the floor and rapidly left the scene, dragging that other police officer who had smashed the window. The officer fell and thankfully was not massively injured, but he was hurt. He did not deserve to be hurt. Thank goodness for justice, the officer who was dragged by this coward was able to keep his wits about him and snatch a knit hat off the driver and maintain it through his ordeal. (Source: criminal complaint)
Later, the car with its smashed window was found abandoned. Found in the car was a stolen handgun and packaged heroin (Source: PennLive) No one was immediately found with the car. There were no suspects.
A little while later, a young 18 year old man named T.G. was walking down the street minding his own business with his girlfriend in the area near the abandoned car. He is a good kid. He had just registered for classes at Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC). He had no reason to fear the police. So, he just kept walking even though he saw the police activity. Suddenly, the police came by. There was a positive identification. T.G. was that fleeing suspect. The officer said he was that dangerous person who had just dragged him through the street.
This is where one nightmare (the officer’s) turns into two.
T.G. was 18 years old and innocent. Just at the wrong place and at the wrong time. He was stopped.
He was identified by the experienced and well-intentioned officer as “definitely the guy.”
T.G. was shocked and scared. He was arrested and charged with 13 counts. But he was innocent.
Several of these were felonies. There were mandatory minimums involved. He was looking at a mandatory minimum of five years on one charge alone. The maximum sentence was well over 40 years. But he was innocent.
This was serious.
What could be done? He was arrested. He was arraigned in front of a judge who set his bail at $200,000.00 straight cash, no bail-bondsman. The nightmare of innocence had begun. He had never been to prison before. He was on his way to Dauphin County Prison. Eighteen, a college student, and innocent at one minute and an accused cowardly dangerous driver the next.
The next day his name was in the paper. He was all over the TV news. His parents and his family and his friends were all learning about all of this. He was a monster. A dangerous monster. It was a nightmare from which he could not wake up. But he was innocent.
What could be done with the case? A positive identification made within minutes from a veteran police officer whose reputation even among criminal defense attorneys was beyond question, a codefendant (a true stranger) who was also arrested later on and was likely to make a statement against T.G. just so he could get out of trouble….
His future looked like state prison.
His future looked grim.
His future was a nightmare.
But he was innocent.
After many months, The McShane Firm, who represented T.G., was able to gain the attention of the Office of the District Attorney of Dauphin County. In particular the assigned Deputy District Attorney Chase Defelice, First Assistant Francis T. Chardo, and elected District Attorney Edward Marsico were willing to listen AND act. They agreed to subject the knit hat snatched off the head of the dangerous coward to rigorous DNA testing by the Pennsylvania State Police.
After nine months of maintaining his innocence, it all came down to this one test. Can you imagine? You are innocent. You miss out on an entire semester in college (probably a whole year). But you are innocent. You spend a birthday in prison. But you are innocent. You have to see your family and friends through the prison glass. But you are innocent.
In a further act of ethics, yesterday the Office of the District Attorney agreed to a stipulated order that set T.G. free on unsecured bail. Judge Bernard Coates, Jr. signed that order today.
Today (9/11/2012), T.G. (pictured below) walked out of prison a free man after nearly nine months of incarceration.
This is the power of DNA.
This is the power of advocacy.
This is a story of honorable prosecutors who did the right thing.
Eyewitnesses make mistakes. Even honorable, well-trained police officers like this one can be honestly mistaken.
Some of the media coverage includes:
Harrisburg man released from prison after DNA evidence fails to link him to crime
Published: Tuesday, September 11, 2012, 10:43 PM Updated: Tuesday, September 11, 2012, 10:43 PM By IVEY DEJESUS, The Patriot-News
Harrisburg man accused in police assault released after DNA test by ABC27.