A Massachusetts man who spent more than three decades in prison for a rape he says he didn’t commit has filed a federal lawsuit accusing law enforcement officials of conspiring to frame him by planting phoney evidence and coercing false statements that were used against him.
George Perrot was 17 in 1985 when he was arrested and charged with raping a 78-year-old Mary Prekop in Springfield, Massachusetts. Perrot, whose conviction was based in part on a single strand of hair, was released from prison in 2016 after a judge said he’s “reasonably sure” Perrot is innocent and found an FBI agent’s testimony about microscopic hair evidence to be flawed.
Perrot’s attorneys say in the lawsuit filed Thursday that law enforcement officers beat and threatened to kill Perrot after his arrest, planted gloves and the hair at the crime scene and withheld evidence that could have helped him. His attorneys allege that officials knew the hair analysis used to secure Perrot’s conviction was “junk science” but pressed forward anyway.
“Rather than do the work necessary to identify the perpetrator, the defendants, individually and jointly, short-circuited the investigatory process and wrongfully targeted plaintiff in an effort to simply close the case,” his attorneys say in the lawsuit against Springfield, several city police officers, a prosecutor and FBI agents.
Ed Pikula, Springfield city solicitor, said Friday that he had not yet reviewed the lawsuit and could not comment. Representatives for the FBI and Hampden district attorney’s office didn’t immediately respond to messages.
The U.S. Justice Department flagged Perrot’s case in 2014 as one of hundreds that involved erroneous statements from FBI agents about hair analysis. The FBI now acknowledges the science is not conclusive and uses it only in conjunction with DNA testing.
Prosecutors dismissed charges against Perrot in October, saying “the interests and administration of justice are best served by the termination of prosecution of this matter.”
Prekop repeatedly said the man who beat and raped her didn’t have any facial hair. On the night of the attack, Nov. 30, 1985, Perrot had a beard and a moustache. When Prekop was shown Perrot’s lineup photo during his trial and was asked if he was her attacker, she replied, “How can I say it when this man has a moustache and a beard?”
Perrot, who had been sentenced to life in prison, is seeking unspecified damages. Tony Balkissoon, an attorney with the Chicago-based firm Loevy & Loevy, which is representing Perrot, said the man hopes his lawsuit brings the justice his criminal trial failed to deliver.
“He was incarcerated for 30 years, during a period of his life when most of us are building careers, building families and learning how to navigate the world as an adult,” Balkissoon said. “Hopefully the civil lawsuit, where everything comes to light, will bring him some sense of justice,” he said.