In 1984, 21-year-old Alberto Ramos, a college student working as a teacher’s aide at the Concourse Day Care Center in New York City, was accused of raping a five-year-old girl at the center.
Ramos went on trial in Bronx County in May 1985. The prosecution’s case centered on the girl’s description of a sexual act and the testimony of a physician who examined the girl and concluded that the child could only known about such behavior if she had been molested.
The girl testified that Ramos took her into a bathroom during naptime, put tape over her mouth and raped her, although doctors found no evidence of penetration.
When the jury found him guilty on May 20, 1985, Ramos shouted, “I want to die! Kill me! Kill me!”
He was sentenced to 13 1/3 to 25 years in prison.
On June 1, 1992, Bronx State Supreme Court Justice John P. Collins set aside the conviction because key documents that could have helped Ramos’ defense were not turned over by the Bronx District Attorney’s Office. Ramos was then released on bond.
The documents included statements from other workers at the center that the girl masturbated openly in class, watched explicit HBO movies, had been “sexually wiser” than other children, and had made a questionable allegation of sexual abuse against a 5-year-old boy. Other documents withheld included statements by the girl that Ramos had done nothing.
Further, the prosecution had not turned over a sign-in log at the school for the day that the girl’s grandmother said she came to pick her up. The grandmother said the incident occurred that day and the girl was crying. The log showed the woman was not in the building that day.
On July 14, 1994, the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court in Manhattan unanimously upheld Collins’ ruling.
The decision said, “While the pernicious problem of child sexual abuse cries out for redress by a society that must be committed to protecting its youngest and most vulnerable citizens, that goal is irreparably damaged when an innocent person is denied a fair trial that results in a wrongful conviction, as appears here to be the case.”
On November 10, 1994, the Bronx County District Attorney dismissed the charges.
Ramos filed a civil rights lawsuit seeking compensation for his wrongful conviction. In December 2003, the City of New York agreed to settle the lawsuit for $5 million.
– Maurice Possley