In the same breath that families of five falsely accused rape suspects embraced their teenage sons in the wake of Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson dismissing the assault charges against them last Thursday, calls to investigate the father for allegedly having sex with his daughter came thick and fast.
Many people close to the case, though, told the Amsterdam News that to save the traumatized 18-year-old woman further distress, the DA would not investigate her father.
“I saw some men pointing out the father the other day, and they asked him, ‘Why would you lie on these kids? Why would you sleep with your daughter?” said Linda Murray-Melcherts, mother of Denzel Murray, the youngest of the accused youths. “They should arrest him. People were saying that’s the man that lied on those boys, and was sleeping with his child.”
The story goes that the teen, who appears to be a victim all the way around, was fostered out since the age of 2 and only came back to live with her father last summer. The word is that the young Latina may be somewhat troubled.
News broke Sunday, January 10 that five youths came upon a father and daughter Jan. 7 in Osborn Playground, Brownsville, at night. The story widely reported and inciting the city was that the five boys, 14 to 17 years of age, chased the father away at gunpoint and gang-raped the 18-year-old daughter. The five boys were arrested within a couple of days. They were Denzel Murray, 14; Shaquell Cooper, 15; Ethan Phillip, 15; Onandi Brown, 17; and Travis Beckford, 17.
But soon after the horrific tale broke, and some people figuratively lit torches and headed out to find the accused, the young lady completely recanted her story, saying, “There was no rape, no gun.”
The DA moved quickly to dismiss the case against the boys. As outraged community members and elected officials demanded that the DA investigate and charge the father for incest and for falsely accusing the five youths, his office told the press that, ultimately, the daughter would need to identify and accuse her father, but “she refuses to cooperate.”
Thompson told the Amsterdam News, “It is my fervent hope that this young woman gets all the support that she needs going forward. My office, including our victim advocates who have been working with this young woman, stands ready to provide her with any assistance she may need.”
Last Monday, the Amsterdam News was in court as the judge dismissed the case against all five accused youths. The families were happy. One of the lawyers, Spencer Leeds, slammed the NYPD, the DA’s office and the media for defaming the young men and the rush to judgement, which led to sensational headlines that virtually called for their heads.
Even though in January Thompson had initially stated that he would take until July to investigate the case, within six weeks, not months, he announced that he would be dismissing the case because the “complainant, as well as her father, provided multiple inconsistent accounts to NYPD detectives and to experienced Special Victims prosecutors about important material facts in this case.” Thompson further stated, “The complainant has recanted her allegations of forcible sexual assault and the existence of a gun, and she does not wish to pursue criminal charges against any of the defendants. She also refuses to cooperate with any prosecution against her father, who was engaging in sexual conduct with her.”
Thompson was critical of all the males involved. “That night, this young woman’s father and the five young men engaged in conduct that was reprehensible and wrong,” he said, “but because of the lack of reliable evidence, criminal charges simply cannot be sustained.”
Denzel Murray, the 14-year-old boy who was not charged with assaulting the young woman, was elated after the dismissal, stating, “I feel alright now.”
His mother, Linda Murray-Melcherts, told the Amsterdam News this week,“He is doing fine. He is calm now, ever since they dropped everything. He is doing better. He said he learnt his lesson, that if he ever sees anything like this, he will just walk away.”
The high school student is focused on business and is looking forward to going to college, his mom said. “It was hard on him and me, too,” she admitted. “We have never been through anything like this. He was crying when they had him. He told the detectives that he didn’t know that was her father. He thought it was her boyfriend. He is the one who had the video that shows the father saying that they could get involved.”
Council Member Laurie A. Cumbo, 35th District, was one of a group of elected officials who held a press conference the day the story hit the headlines. She is not pleased with the outcome of the case. In a letter, she noted, “There are no winners in this situation, and the sacredness of community, respect and order has been violated at the highest level.”
Cumbo, who is chair of the Women’s Issues Committee said, “The dismissal of all charges also desensitizes a Black community and lowers their standards of acceptable behavior. The alleged incestuous relationship of an 18-year-old girl with her father has now been given the green light. Two boys allegedly having sex in a public park with an 18-year-old girl while three other boys watched, laughed and videotaped has now been given a green light. Women who are inebriated will have a more difficult time making the case that they were raped. According to the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network, the nation’s largest anti-sexual assault organization, ‘98 percent of rapists will never spend a day in prison.’”
Cumbo also stated, “On February 18, the young woman informed prosecutors that she decided she did not want to move forward with the case and that she ‘doesn’t do court.’ One can only imagine how a woman who has spent her entire life bouncing around the foster care system has come to the conclusion that she ‘doesn’t do court.’ I wonder what chance at justice an 18-year-old girl would have had after being in an incestuous relationship with her father, engaging in some form of sexual act with five young men, predominantly male lawyers representing the young men in this case and a criminal justice system all led by men.”
Kenneth Montgomery, Denzel Murray’s attorney, told the Amsterdam News, “My client is elated. He said that he never had sex with the young lady, and he is glad that he has been vindicated.”
“It was such a big thing,” said Murray-Melcherts, the Dutch-speaking Suriname-born mom. “It was all over the world. That’s how they found out in my country. I told my son that you have sisters. Whatever you do can come back to you. Not everything offered to you is sweet. He said that he told his friends that he wasn’t going to do anything in the park that night, and he did not.” She added that her son “told me 2 o’clock in the morning.”
The mother of five, including 8-year-old twins, concluded, “I told him that I have to take you in because I don’t want the cops to come and kick down the door. The man said you had a gun and you see how they are killing innocent Black boys. So it was hard, but I had to take him in. I told Denzel, ‘This has to be a lesson for the rest of your life.’ He never stays in the street at all, but we are signing up with Man Up! Inc., in their after-school program.”
A.T. Mitchell, founder of the community advocacy organization Man Up!, told the Amsterdam News, “The dismissal in this case was a victory for Black America in Brooklyn, New York City. Five young Black brothers from Brownsville are vindicated and charges were dismissed against them that could have ruined the rest of their lives, and could have been compared to the Central Park Five. We are certainly not celebrating a complete victory in this situation, because of the circumstances surrounding the remaining parts of this case.
“We are using this as a teaching moment and an opportunity to reach out to all young men and women of our community to talk to about topics that are very serious and delicate like those factors that surround this case. We are appreciative of the immediate community for coming together regardless of the complexities surrounding this case. As it relates to these young brothers, justice was served and these young men can possibly get their lives back in order. We here at Man Up [were] present in court with the intent of making contact with the families and we have!
“We have offered our services to help mold these young men into fine, productive and responsible members of our Black community and beyond. We are, too, offering our services to help the young lady in this case to help her in any we are able.”