A hard-working immigrant who was locked up on Rikers Island for at least two weeks on sexual abuse charges in a horrifying case of mistaken identity is now suing the city for $5 million.
Francisco Morales, 48, said his stint behind bars destroyed his health — and his mental well-being.
“I'm very afraid,” he told the Daily News in Spanish. “I would scream. I was never like that. I felt bad. I wanted to kill myself.”
The scary saga began on March 28, 2017 outside a bodega in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Cops stopped Morales for what they said was possession of an open alcohol container, according to court documents. When police processed him for arrest, Morales’ identity somehow got confused with another man — “Fransisco Morales.”
That Morales has the same birthday but is one year younger and was also wanted for a sex crime — one that might have involved a minor.
Luiz C. Ribeiro New York Daily News
The perplexed Mexican construction worker was detained by cops and sent to Rikers Island.
His long-time partner Rosa Jimenez, 42, was worried when Morales didn’t come home that night — and grew even more frantic when she didn’t hear from him the next day.
“I called everyone we knew and started going to every hospital nearby,” she told The News. “Nobody knew where he was. It was terrible.”
A nurse finally suggested she call 311 and by then — some three days later — Morales was registered in the city’s jail system. An operator told Jimenez her partner was at Rikers Island.
“I was shocked — I almost had a heart attack,” she said. “It made no sense, I couldn’t believe it.”
Over the next several days, Jimenez found a way to borrow the $5,000 she needed to spring Morales. When she went to pay his bail on April 7, the mix-up of identities was discovered, she said.
The District Attorney’s office sent an affidavit to a criminal court judge confirming they had the wrong guy.
Jimenez was told her husband would be home by 7 p.m. that night — but he never appeared.
In fact Morales, who has diabetes, wound up in a local hospital after he was discharged. He’d lost his cell phone and didn’t remember his own phone number to call her, Jimenez said. She didn’t hear from him until April 17, when he was released and tracked the family down.
Morales said his diabetes has worsened since his time in jail. He says he still has nightmares and has developed a nervous tick that causes his jaw to shake.
According to Morales, he doesn’t remember much about his time behind bars, other than being confused and allegedly spoken to harshly by guards.
“That's what you deserve,” Morales said cops told him. “I asked, ‘Why do you treat me like this?’”
Upon learning he was being accused of a sex crime — something he claims arresting officers didn’t make clear to him and insists he would never do — Morales worried how he’d explain the situation to his loved ones.
“I was thinking, 'What is my family going to say?” Morales said.
Morales is suing the City of New York, the NYPD, the Department of Corrections, the Department of Health and Human Services as well as the arresting officers in the case. Morales, who is not a U.S. citizen, is also alleging constitutional violations in his $5 million-suit.
"This ‘mistake’ was a complete affront to our client's constitutional rights and a travesty of justice. Thrown in jail for the crimes of another who simply had the same name — that should not happen with the technology available to law enforcement,’’ according to Morales’ attorney Imran Ansari of the law firm Aidala, Bertuna & Kamins. He’s working on the case with lawyer Darran Winslow.
“Mr. Morales stands by the allegations in his complaint and looks forward to his day in court,” Ansari said.
A city spokesman declined to comment on the pending case. The NYPD did not respond to a request for comment.