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Eric Sarsfield

Other Massachusetts Cases with Perjury or False Accusations
In early August 1986, 30-year-old T.G. moved from Iowa to a garden level apartment on Pleasant Street in Marlborough, Massachusetts to take on a new job at United Way. On the afternoon of August 24, T.G. was cleaning on the recessed patio when a young white man stopped on the street above and asked for directions. After she gave him directions, T.G. resumed cleaning.

When she looked up again, the man was still there and he then jumped down into the patio. T.G. told him to leave, noticing that his words were slurred, his eyes were glassy, and he smelled of alcohol. He asked for a drink of water. T.G. told him he could not come into her apartment. She suggested they go somewhere for a beer, thinking that he would then leave.

But when she started to walk toward her apartment door, the man grabbed her arm. She screamed and he threw her down, held her by the neck and told her to be quiet. He then dragged her into the living room of her apartment and pulled off her clothes. He then orally sodomized her, digitally penetrated her both vaginally and anally, and then vaginally raped her.

After the rape, T.G. said she was going to the kitchen to get some water. She then walked out the front door and fled to a nearby store. After T.G. saw her attacker leave the apartment, she called her supervisor who came to the apartment, picked her up and took her to the police station.

T.G. told police that the attacker was about 20 to 25 years old, 5 feet 10 inches tall, with a slender build, dark blonde hair cut in bangs and covering his ears, blue eyes, clean shaven, and had a small blue tattoo of a cross on his upper right arm. She said he was wearing a blue and white golf shirt, a blue windbreaker and jeans. He was carrying a Walkman radio.

T.G. was taken to the hospital where a rape kit was taken.

Detectives Robert Jusseaume and Albert Pitard then drove T.G. to her apartment to pick up fresh clothes. They found that the attacker’s jacket and radio on her couch. A burrito wrapped in plastic and foil was inside one of the jacket pockets. Pitard later stored the burrito in the freezer of his own kitchen.

T.G. was taken back to the police station, where she worked with Pitard to prepare a composite sketch of the rapist. She also viewed books of mug shots of possible suspects, but did not recognize anyone as her attacker.

The following day, August 25, 1986, T.G. met police officer Dennis Clark, who lived in the same apartment building she lived. He asked her to come back to his apartment later that day to view a surveillance tape from a convenience store. She identified a man in the fuzzy black and white videotape as her attacker based on his jacket, body language, and stance. The man’s face was not visible on the tape.

in the following days and weeks, the police defendants showed T.G. hundreds of photos of possible suspects from multiple high school yearbooks, photograph books, and photo arrays. She identified none of them, although she told police that one photo in a yearbook bore a strong resemblance to the rapist.

In late September, T.G. returned to the police station to view a drifter the police had picked up. She said the man was not her attacker.

During the last week of September, Detective Jusseaume followed 30-year-old Eric Sarsfield home. Jusseaume asked Sarsfield for his driver’s license and whether he lived at that address. Sarsfield complied and said he did live there. Jusseaume said Sarsfield looked similar to a sketch of a rapist were looking for, and asked him to take off his jacket and show his arms. Sarsfield complied. There were no tattoos on either arm.

Several days later, Pitard and another officer, Jody Merlini, went to Sarsfield’s home and questioned him. Sarsfield agreed to go to the police where Jusseaume joined the interrogation.

Sarsfield said he had nothing to do with the crime. He was allowed to leave, but was brought back to the station on December 8, 1986. Sarsfield later said that Jusseaume showed Sarsfield a bag containing the Walkman radio and headphones, and asked Sarsfield to take them out. Sarsfield declined, fearing that he would leave his fingerprints on the items.

After Sarsfield refused to comply, the police photographed him and allowed him to leave.

The police put Sarsfield’s photograph in a photographic lineup and took it T.G.’s apartment that same evening. Although she told them she was too tired to see them, the police insisted that she view the photos. She viewed the approximately 10 photographs and pulled out two as "possibilities."

During this viewing, officers Clark and Jusseaume repeatedly pointed to Sarsfield’s photo and asked, “What about this one?” T.G. told them she did not know if he was the man who had raped her, and would have to see him in person. The officers said he was at the police and asked her to go there right then to view a lineup. Although she told them it was too late and she was too tired, she relented on the belief that police considered him a suspect, and that she would lose the opportunity to view him if she didn’t go right then.

Meanwhile, officer Pitard intercepted Sarsfield, who had stopped to have a beer on the way home. Sarsfield agreed, and at the station he was put in a viewing room with Pitard. T.G. viewed him through a one-way window. She would later say she recognized him from his photograph, but had difficulty seeing him in the dimly lit room. She said the room was too dark.

The police then told Sarsfield to put on the windbreaker that had been left by the rapist. T.G. then said she was “pretty sure, but not definite” that Sarsfield was the rapist. She asked if she could hear his voice. The door to the viewing room was opened and Sarsfield was told to speak loud enough to be heard. T.G. thought Sarsfield’s words were slurred—he had been drinking—like the rapist’s words.

When the officers told her they could not arrest him unless she positively identified him, T.G said she was 95 percent sure Sarsfield was the rapist.

A few days later, officer Merlini went to T.G. apartment and again displayed the same photographic lineup which included Sarsfield that she had been shown earlier. T.G. said she had already seen that photographic array. Merlini then told her that Sarsfield’s wife had identified him as the man on the convenience store surveillance tape. Merlini also told T.G. that after Sarsfield’s wife saw the videotape, she asked, “What did he do this time?”

As a result, T.G. then selected Sarsfield’s photo, despite being unsure. Sarsfield, despite Merlini’s comment, had no criminal record.

On January 14, 1987, Sarsfield was arrested and charged with rape.

Before the trial, the trial judge granted a defense motion requiring that the prosecution to put on the record that all oral statements that Sarsfield was alleged to have made had been disclosed to the defense. The judge ordered that no oral statements that had not been disclosed could be used by the prosecution.

On July 3, 1987, with the trial set to begin in four days, Jusseaume claimed that he had just “found” a three-page written report that he had authored that recounted his interview with Sarsfield had September 1986. According to the report, Sarsfield had volunteered that he sometimes drew fake tattoos on his arms. The report was suspicious because the Marlborough police department required that all police reports be typed and turned in at the time they were generated.

On July 7, 1987, Sarsfield went to trial in Middlesex County Superior Court. T.G. identified him as her attacker.

The rape kit had never been submitted for any testing. The prosecution contended that the biological contents of the rape kit had deteriorated and could not be tested. The rape kit and T.G.’s clothing were introduced as evidence, there was no forensic testimony about any biological substances.

Sarsfield testified and denied committing the crime. He testified that he had no tattoos, and did not draw fake tattoos on his arms. He did not remember his whereabouts on the day of the crime, and so he had no alibi.

Jusseaume was allowed to testify in rebuttal about his late-disclosed report.

On July 14, 1987, Sarsfield was convicted of rape and assault and battery. He was sentenced to 10 to 15 years in prison. His sentence was stayed, pending appeals, until October 27, 1989, at which point he began serving time when his convictions were affirmed.

At parole eligibility hearings in 1996, 1997, and 1998, Sarsfield told the Parole Board that although he knew admitting to the crime would pave the way for his release, he could not admit to a crime he did not commit. Parole was denied each time.

Finally, on May 30, 1999, Sarsfield was released on parole. As a condition of parole, he was required to register as a sex offender.

Meanwhile, on December 28, 1997, Sarsfield, represented by attorney George Garfinkle, filed a motion seeking DNA comparison testing of items in the rape kit. The prosecution opposed the motion, but in September 1999, the judge granted it. DNA testing was conducted on clothing the victim wore at the time of the crime. In March 2000, the testing excluded Sarsfield as the source of semen found on the clothing.

The prosecution then sought and was granted permission to conduct additional testing on vaginal swabs and a blood swatch from the rape kit. Those results also excluded Sarsfield.

Garfinkle filed a motion for post-conviction relief on August 3, 2000, which was granted. The District Attorney’s office did not re-prosecute.

Sarsfield, joined by Innocence Project co-founder Barry Scheck, later filed a federal civil rights lawsuit that was settled for $2 million. He also sued under the Massachusetts compensation statute and was awarded $500,000.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date:  Before June 2012
Last Updated: 1/7/2024
Most Serious Crime:Sexual Assault
Additional Convictions:Assault
Reported Crime Date:1986
Sentence:10 to 15 years
Age at the date of reported crime:23
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:Yes