On April 26, 1994, a woman told the New York City Police Department that she had been dragged into the bushes and raped in Prospect Park in the city’s Brooklyn borough. She insisted it was true after the New York Daily News’ Mike McAlary wrote a story entitled “Rape Hoax, the Real Crime,” alleging that the woman “will probably end up being arrested herself” because she “invented the crime.”
Even after a judge dismissed her libel case because McAlary’s reporting was based on police sources, the woman insisted that she was a victim of rape. She persisted, citing DNA evidence, even after police didn’t make an arrest. Despite the fact that McAlary and the Daily News wrote three more stories—the last of which was “I’m Right, but That’s No Reason to Cheer”—she pursued justice for two decades.
The woman was vindicated Tuesday when the NYPD announced that the DNA evidence in the 23-year-old case matched James Edward Webb, a serial rapist already serving 75 years in prison, according to the Associated Press.
The NYPD’s Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce said that the woman wept when officers informed the woman of the DNA match. “You can imagine how emotional she was,” said Boyce. “I think my detectives cried with her.”
Boyce said that the original DNA sample was mixed with the victim’s DNA, but as detectives combed through cold cases, investigators asked the woman for another DNA sample. They were able to extract the rapist’s DNA using modern methods unavailable to police in 1994 and came back with a hit.
Webb, the accused perpetrator, has been charged with 10 rapes over a number of decades, but it was unclear if he was a suspect in the original case.
Even though she was proved correct, the woman’s attorney, Martin Garbus, said that the Daily News and the NYPD, which a judge declared to be the source for McAlary’s articles, owed the victim an apology.
“This is a woman who had to live for 23 years with a false accusation of lying, with threats to the newspaper that she was about to be arrested,” Garbus explained. “It’s horrific.”
McAlary was cleared of wrongdoing in 1997 in the woman’s libel case when a judge declared, “This court finds that Mr. McAlary was given information by the police that was inaccurate.” McAlary wrote that the woman made up the story to bolster a speech she was giving at a feminist rally.
It has long been rumored that McAlary’s source was John Miller, who was the NYPD’s spokesman in 1994 and who is now head of the city’s counterterrorism and intelligence unit.
McAlary, who died in 1998 at the age of 41, won the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the Abner Louima case, after white NYPD officers assaulted the black Haitian immigrant in 1997. He was immortalized when he was portrayed by Tom Hanks in 2013 in Nora Ephron’s play Lucky Guy.
When contacted in the fiery depths of hell, McAlary had no comment.
Read more at the Associated Press.