New York Daily News: Rikers Investigators Allegedly Washed Off DNA Evidence From Jeans Submitted by Raped Inmate
MONDAY, APRIL 24, 2017

Stephen Brown reports in the Daily News about evidence mismanagement at Rikers Island’s Rose M. Singer Center on a Legal Aid Society case involving DOC sexual abuse of inmates.

New York Daily News
Rikers Investigators Allegedly Washed Off DNA Evidence From Jeans Submitted by Raped Inmate
By Stephen Rex Brown & Reuven Blau
April 23, 2017

City jail investigators literally washed off evidence from a pair of semen-stained jeans submitted by an inmate who alleges she was raped by a correction officer, according to new court documents.

The alleged victim — listed as Jane Doe 1 in the lawsuit — charges correction officer Benny Santiago repeatedly sexually assaulted her at the Rose M. Singer Center on Rikers Island from 2007 to 2013.

She, along with another woman, sued Santiago and the city in 2015.

After the last sexual assault, the inmate says she wiped his semen on her jeans, then gave the pants to investigators on May 10, 2013.

But the location of the jeans for the next four days before the pants were given to the NYPD remains a mystery, according to the court filing submitted on Thursday.

Department of Investigation prober Ferdinand Torres never documented what he did with the jeans or when he transferred them to someone else, according to forensic expert Julie Heinig, who was hired by the Legal Aid Society, which is representing the two women.

At one point, Torres said he gave them to DOI Assistant Inspector General James Christo in the clinic that same day, internal department records show.

But he also testified that he might have stored the jeans in a trailer on Rikers used by DOI.

There are no documents linking the jeans to the trailer “assuming they were ever there,” said Heinig.

Also, Christo denied ever getting the jeans until four days later, correction records show.

“In specific, there is no evidence that, if the jeans were kept in the trailer, they were secured in some way that prevented them from being tampered with,” Heinig said.

Standard procedure requires a strict chain of custody to safeguard potential evidence.

The investigator in charge of collecting evidence is required to fill out a chain of custody form before vouchering and safekeeping the evidence in a locker, according to the department’s manual.

No semen was found on the right leg of the jeans, but there was “male DNA found in the crotch area as well as other parts of the jeans,” Heinig said.

“The fact that I did not find semen on the jeans is consistent with the semen having been washed off the jeans before my testing them,” Heinig added.

Santiago has denied the woman’s allegations, according to an internal DOI report.

On Friday, his attorney said he no longer remembers what happened because the officer suffered a massive stroke.

Santiago was put on modified duty — away from inmates but still receiving his full pay — after the complaint was filed.

The Department of Correction “has a zero tolerance policy with regard to sexual abuse, and there is no place at (the department) for the mistreatment of any inmate,” spokeswoman Eve Kessler said.

The department has trained thousands of officers and spent millions of dollars in its drive to become compliant with new federal guidelines, Kessler added.

Jail officials created a new investigations division specifically designed and trained to respond to sexual allegations in a private setting, she added.

DOI declined to comment.

This article originally appeared in the New York Daily News.