NY Daily News


September 16, 2007

Custodian falsely accused of child rape sues city for $10M

Brooklyn school custodian Francis Evelyn once walked proud, worked hard and looked forward to a peaceful retirement.

Now he's too scared to go out his front door.

Five months after his face was broadcast worldwide as an accused child rapist, Evelyn, 58, can't sleep. He can't stop the tears. He can't wipe away the nightmare of being arrested, jailed and wrongly accused.

Berated by cops, taunted by Rikers Island inmates and branded in his native Trinidad, the dignified, law-abiding immigrant has filed a $10 million claim against the city for ruining his life by believing a troubled child with a history of lying.

"Before, I walked the street happy-go-lucky," Evelyn said at his East Flatbush home. "Now, you see the eyes. People you don't know approach you. You don't know what they're coming with. It could be bad. I'm scared like hell of being out there!"

Evelyn was cleaning the halls of Public School 91 in Wingate on March 19, just as he had done for nearly 20 years, when cops dragged him out in handcuffs.

An 8-year-old girl claimed that for weeks he repeatedly molested her in a basement bathroom.

The school's respected principal, Solomon Long, was suspended for failing to report other allegations by the girl, which he believed to be unfounded. Long was later reinstated.
Francis Evelyn
Francis Evelyn looks at the world differently now ever since he was falsely accused of raping an 8-year-old child

Evelyn was paraded before television cameras and spent two days at Rikers before prosecutors - in a nearly unprecedented move - rushed to a night judge to drop the charges.

The child, who also wrongly accused her father of rape, had no signs of physical assault, and initially identified her alleged assailant as bald and white.

Evelyn is black.

He said cops grilled him for hours, lying about fake DNA tests to try to force a confession, and offering to cut him a short prison term instead of life if he admitted guilt.

Thrown into a jail cell with seasoned criminals, Evelyn stood with his back to a wall all night, praying, as fellow inmates greeted each other and unabashedly used an open toilet.

He was strip-searched and left to sleep on a bare mattress in a filthy cell wearing only a "Pampers," and paraded past inmates who screamed, "Hey, Pops! You raped my sister! I'm going to cut your throat! Don't let me catch you in the shower! We gonna shank you!"

When he was finally freed, Evelyn said, a cursing Correction officer refused to give back $84 cash he had handed over, then released him with a $4 MetroCard.

Not until he was back in Brooklyn did he see his face displayed on front pages. "I was stunned," he said. He said he walked miles with his head under his shirt.

"I didn't want anybody to recognize me!" said Evelyn. "I can't go out on the street without having to answer questions. Some people said, 'Hey, you're the guy who raped the 8-year-old.' I said, 'I never raped nobody!'"

Although he can return to PS91, Evelyn's body shakes when he goes near the building. He has been living off vacation time and 57 sick days.

"I had two more years to retire," he said. "After you work all that time, all that sacrifice, it comes to this? I want to get over this!" he said. "I don't want those charges just to be sealed. I want it to be washed away! I want an apology. Come on. Clear my name!"

Evelyn's daughter, Ria, who just returned from serving in Iraq, said each summer her younger brother, now 14, looked forward to spending time with his dad.

"How do you explain to your little brother that your father was arrested for attacking a little girl?" she said.

Evelyn put his head in his hands and broke into racking sobs.

"Daddy, it's okay," she said. "Take a tissue!"

Then, turning away from him, she asked, "How's $10 million going to fix that?"


False Child Abuse Allegations
Truth in Justice