Published On: Thu, Jan 12th, 2017

Facebook-hunt drags wrong defendant into court

GREAT BAY – An intruder stabbed a woman in her home on Back Street at 6 a.m. on December 27, 2015. The victim sustained serious stab wounds to her back and it took ten hours or surgery to save her life. Yesterday, 24-year-old Rudolph Ricardo M. was in court, accused of attempted manslaughter, but the judge was quickly done with the case: “There is not a shred of evidence against you,” he told the defendant before acquitting him of the crime.

Young man acquitted of attempted manslaughter

The public prosecutor had a different opinion though. Initially, he wanted to postpone the case to a later date, saying that the investigation was not complete yet. DNA-tests on a piece of clothing belonging to the intruder showed no DNA-traces matching the defendant’s profile.

“That is not exculpatory, it just does not incriminate the defendant,” the prosecutor said. He also wanted a report from the probation office and, if need be, a psychological evaluation of the defendant.

But the court rejected the request: “We cannot leave this defendant forever in uncertainty and the arguments of the prosecutor are not convincing,” the judge said. “Finding the real culprit does not stand in the way of handling this case today. Why it is necessary to further investigate the person of the defendant is hard to understand.”

On December 28, 2015, the woman was attacked in the early morning hours by a man with a knife. He demanded money and threatened her with a knife that he would later also use on her. The victim’s son and daughter came down when they heard the commotion and a neighbor saw a man flee the house.

It remains unclear how the nickname Bébé got into the mix, but this inspired the victim’s son to do a search on Facebook. It brought up a picture of the defendant and this piece of private investigation led to the defendant’s arrest.

Not surprisingly, the victim, the son, the daughter and the neighbor later ‘recognized’ the defendant in a photo confrontation at the police station; they had seen the picture before.

Yet the prosecutor based his evidence on the recognition of the defendant from this photo confrontation. He also noted that the defendant did not have a rock solid alibi for the time of the attack. He demanded 4 years of imprisonment.

Attorney Safira Ibrahim pointed out that the witnesses had given starkly different descriptions of the attacker and that the son had made an incorrect statement about the presumed involvement of someone called Bébé. And while the victim told police that her attacker had a beard, the defendant was on the date of the attack clean-shaven. Ibrahim concluded that there is insufficient legal and convincing evidence for a conviction and asked the court to acquit her client.

The judge agreed. “There is no discussion about what happened. But did this defendant do it? I do not think so; there is not a single link between the victim and the defendant and this attack was something personal – an attempt to kill someone. It is unlikely that something like that is done by someone who does not know the victim at all.”

The judge agreed with attorney Ibrahim: “The son heard something, did a search on Facebook and decided: this has to be the one. The photo confrontation was months later. It seems logical that the son showed the picture he found on Facebook to the others, so the witnesses were influenced and the recognition is unreliable. There is not a shred of evidence against this defendant.”

The judge acquitted the defendant of all charges.