An innocent man imprisoned for 29 years in a murder/rape case filed a federal lawsuit accusing five city cops of hiding evidence and coercing a crucial prosecution witness.
The 1981 conviction of plaintiff Clifford Jones came only through the concerted efforts of NYPD investigators assigned to the case, the plaintiff’s attorneys charged in Manhattan Federal Court.
“Jones’ conviction was not an accident but rather the result of the defendants’ serious investigative misconduct,” read the lawsuit filed by the firm of Neufeld Scheck & Brustin.
“Defendants buried exculpatory physical evidence … that would have proven Jones’ innocence to the jury.”
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Jones, now 63, remained locked up for the vicious crimes until 2010, and was not exonerated until six years later.
The case involved the June 2, 1980, rape of a heroin-addicted prostitute and the fatal stabbing of a man as the rapist fled a Harlem building.
Cops recovered a blood-soaked baseball cap left at the scene as the attacker fled — and recovered hair samples from the hat.
Testing by police established the hairs did not match Jones, effectively clearing him of the crime, the suit alleged.
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But an NYPD detective and an officer then buried the evidence and lied about their efforts, according to the 31-page lawsuit filed Tuesday.
The law enforcement duo “did not disclose the exculpatory hair comparison to the prosecution or to Jones or his defense counsel,” the lawsuit charged.
The investigators further “misrepresented in oral and written reports to the prosecution that the comparison had not been done,” the suit added.
Jones, who was sentenced to 18 years to life in prison, insisted from the start that he was nowhere near the crime scene on the day of the rape and slaying.
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But his lawsuit also alleges that police coerced the rape victim into identifying Jones — the most damning evidence against him.
The woman was high on heroin when the cops improperly allowed Robinson to see Jones inside the Manhattan precinct and “suggested that he was the perpetrator,” the suit charged.
Though the 6-foot-2, 168-pound Jones did not resemble the dark-skinned, stocky man with braids initially described as the suspect, the woman picked him out of a lineup.
“The case against Jones rested entirely on (her) false identification testimony,” the lawsuit charged. “No physical or circumstantial evidence implicated Jones in the crime.”
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The NYC Law Department, in a Friday statement, said the agency “will review the suit and respond accordingly.”
Jones, since his release, has earned an associate’s degree from Bronx Community College and a bachelor’s degree from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
He also serves as a caretaker for his 86-year-old mother, who lives near Jones in the Bronx.
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