A Troy, NY teenager who headed off to his freshman year at Buffalo State College saw his future changed forever when police arrested him on a bogus sexual abuse charge.
Though Elijah Bethel had a verifiable alibi and witnesses to attest to his whereabouts following another student’s being groped in her dorm room, police arrested Bethel, then 18, within hours of the incident. According to police, a female student was asleep in her bed around 3:20 a.m. when a short black man in black shorts entered her room and groped her.
He then fled, dropping cigarettes and a lighter as he went.
Around 3:40 a.m., police spotted a group of four students outside on the other side of campus, including Bethel, who was wearing black shorts.
The group was interviewed, telling officers that they had been at a nearby restaurant together. Most had bags with leftovers, while Bethel had a receipt from his meal, which he showed to the officers.
Minutes later, Bethel had returned to his dorm room and police knocked on his door, putting him in handcuffs and escorting him from the building to the police station downtown.
From there, authorities asked the victim to identify him without any kind of line-up. The victim, who had been asleep in the dark and hadn’t seen her attacker well, immediately told police that Bethel had broken into her room and groped her. He was immediately arrested on felony sexual abuse charges without further investigation.
Fortunately, Bethel had help from an attorney, who held the police’s feet to the fire on behalf of his client.
Through his lawyer, Bethel was able to force the police to examine DNA evidence from the fallen cigarettes and lighter.
When the results came back six weeks later, all charges against Bethel were dropped. While he has since been accepted to another school and is working to get a fresh start, Bethel has struggled with the fact that any internet search of his name now goes directly to news reports about the assault, rather than his long history as a star athlete and student.
This type of case reveals a conundrum of the internet era. How do you clear your name when search engines will direct queries to what they consider most authoritative and relevant – like a news article in the person’s hometown paper?
While Bethel and many others who are falsely accused of crimes will be addressing this issue for years to come, at least Bethel had access to an attorney who could secure the best outcome possible.
If you’ve been accused of a crime in Rochester, you need to get help right away.
The attorneys at Friedman & Ranzenhofer have been defending clients since 1955, and we can help you.
Call 585-484-7432 today for a legal consultation with an experienced Buffalo criminal defense attorney.