On March 26, 1997, Fancy Figueroa came home from school in Queens, New York, anticipating celebrating her 16th birthday. Instead, she was raped by a man who followed her into the family home.
She called the police and was taken to a hospital for a medical examination and a rape kit was prepared. When medical personnel discovered that Figueroa was pregnant, police suspected she had concocted the report of being raped to cover it up.
Figueroa insisted that the rape did occur, but the detectives did not believe her. "They told me if I wrote down on a piece of paper that I was lying, they would help me look for this guy," she said years later, but instead they used her written statement to charge her with filing a false report, a misdemeanor.
Figueroa pled guilty with the understanding that if she was not charged with further crimes after six months, the conviction would be vacated and the case dismissed. She was sentenced to pick up trash for three days and the conviction was later removed from her record.
In 2003, Vincent Elias, who had been convicted of two rapes in Queens in 1999, was required to give a DNA sample to prison authorities. When his DNA profile was submitted to the New York State DNA database, it matched the DNA profile that had been developed from the rape kit in Figueroa’s case.
In March 2004, Elias pled guilty to raping Figueroa and was sentenced to 22 years in prison.
Figueroa went public with her story in the hope that it would help other rape victims. She said she forgave the detectives who pressured her to recant the rape claim, although she added, “There was a point where I was just so upset with them. I felt they hurt me more than the rapist hurt me. He just came and left, but for six years, nobody believed me. I lost my family. I lost my freedom. I lost a little of my sanity.”
– Maurice Possley