Botched Fingerprints Land Innocent Man in Rikers

Victim settles for $145K

Thursday, Sep 3, 2009  |  Updated 8:15 AM EDT
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Botched Fingerprints Land Innocent Man in Rikers

The prison on Rikers Island.

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An innocent Georgia man spent 17 months on Rikers Island on robbery charges before a detective noticed that fingerprints linking him to the crime were mismatched, a published report said.

In the end, Dwight Gomas walked away with a $145,000 settlement, but he told the Daily News the nightmare of his experience endures.

"That scares me now. It's like I'm walking on eggshells. I try to cover my tracks for everywhere I go."

During his 523 days in jail, Gomas, 31, lost his spot in a cooking school and his girlfriend and their child moved in with another man, the newspaper said.

Gomas' bungled situation was righted as he was headed to trial for allegedly holding up a a Queens jewelry store, and a veteran detective routinely checked his identification.

"When I looked at it, I said, 'You know what? This is a screwup; this is not his fingerprints,'" said Detective Daniel Perruzza, according to a court transcript.

"It looks similar, but 'similar' doesn't cut it in prints. It has to be an exact match," Perruzza said.

Gomas was actually 880 miles away, living in Atlanta, when the jewelry store in Howard Beach was held up in 2003.

A year later, Gomas was arrested for the robbery by U.S. marshals.

Detective Eileen Barrett had matched a partial index finger print from the crime scene to Gomas, whose prints were on file after an arrest for driving with a suspended license in Brooklyn.

It was the only arrest on his record other than a juvenile bust.

A second NYPD detective, Charles Schenkel, confirmed Barrett's identification, according to court papers.

Both detectives are now retired.
 

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