It is nothing short of miraculous that Bower, a convicted sexual predator who has refused to participate in mandated rehabilitation classes to this day because he continues to insist his innocence, is still alive. [Sexual offenders, especially rapists and those who prey on young women and children, are the lowest class within the prison hierarchy.] Equally miraculous, however, is that a mishmash group of supporters and advocates for Bower have been selflessly and relentlessly waging a campaign ever since his incarceration to free him.
Because the real tragedy is that mounting evidence suggests Bower is 100-percent innocent, according to years of investigative work conducted by a team of law enforcement officials that includes current and former members of the New York State (NYS) Inspector General’s Office of the state Department of Correctional Services (DOCS), the Federal Bureau of Investigation, state Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) and even the sex crimes unit that originally arrested him, along with reams of legal documents filed on behalf of Bower by his longstanding attorney (all done pro bono).
Many believe the real culprit to be a former New York City police officer named Michael Perez, who’s never served a day in prison for any of these heinous acts and could have potentially committed dozens more.
It’s this “miscarriage of justice,” as Bower’s longstanding attorney, Jeremy L. Goldberg, characterizes it in what has become hundreds of pages of legal documents he’s filed since picking up the case in 1994, that inspires believers to dedicate and sacrifice countless hours of their own lives throughout the better part of the past two decades to righting this wrong.
“My personal resolution is that until he’s exonerated, as long as I’m alive, I’ll be trying to get that done,” Goldberg tells the Press. “That’s a fact. That’s no hyperbole. I will, always. Because the bottom line is, that it’s easier for me to keep fighting than to walk away and live with it, without fighting.”
“There was a real travesty of justice here,” explains Timothy Huff, a retired senior investigator from the DOCS Inspector General’s Office whose routine visit to Bower in 1996 unearthed a wealth of evidence challenging Bower’s conviction and making a formidably compelling case that Perez, in fact, was the Silver Gun Rapist. “If everybody deserves liberty and freedom for all, this guy’s liberty was screwed up.”
At the very least, after all these years, there are still reasonable doubts about Bower’s innocence or guilt, even among members of the very unit that arrested him. Vito Navarra, the squad’s first-grade detective, later an investigator for the Queens District Attorney’s Office, now retired, is intimately knowledgeable with both Bower and Perez’ potential culpabilities. He has encountered the cases in at least three separate capacities throughout his 35-year career on the job and investigated Perez extensively.
Asked about Bower, Navarra says, “I think you could flip a coin… I couldn’t say one way or the other.”
Perez, who resigned from the NYPD in 1997 after an Internal Affairs Bureau investigation discovered him peeping into apartment windows and soliciting a prostitute, did not return multiple calls and messages left at his home from the Press seeking comment for this story.