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Ronald Bower Has Spent 20 Years In Prison For Crimes Many Believe He Didn’t Commit


Double Vision: (l) Former NYPD Officer Michael Perez and Ronald Bower. Police allowed Perez to change out of the hooded sweatshirt he was arrested in for his mug shot, while demanding Bower put one on for his.

“Date Night” For A Psychotic


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According to an Aug. 7, 1991, article in The New York Times, police said Perez, then 30 and an eight-year veteran of the department’s crime prevention division, abducted a Queens woman outside her home, forced her to drive with him in her own car and sodomized her twice the day prior. A patrol car stopped the attack when he pulled them over for erratic driving. Perez was charged with rape, kidnapping and sodomy.

The victim of this attack, known as Incident E in court papers, drove home from a nightclub on Queens Boulevard between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. Returning later than she had told her husband she would, she sat in her car near her Flushing apartment to calm down before heading inside, say court filings. When she opened the car door to exit, a man pointed a gun at her and forced her back in. Demanding the keys, he drove them to a path along a highway and forced her to undress and perform oral sex on him.

After ordering her to put her clothes back on, he asked her for money, then drove to back to Flushing, where he pulled over and again forced her to perform oral sex. He then raped her, say court papers, and continued driving near her apartment when he hit something.

Then, a police car arrived, which had been following them because of their erratic driving. As officers approached the vehicle, the woman, of Asian decent but speaking little English, “jumped from the car crying and in near hysteria,” according to the police report. She pointed to her crotch and signaled that the driver had a gun.

Perez identified himself as a police officer and told the officers the woman had engaged in sexual activity voluntarily. They found a “fully loaded revolver from beneath the driver’s seat”—a silver .38 caliber six-shot revolver with a 2-inch barrel—and arrested him.

Perez, 5-feet, 7-inches tall, 155 pounds, brown-black wavy hair, a moustache and a wandering right eye, had also been wearing black leather racing gloves. Ultimately, a small arsenal of firearms was recovered from him; he was registered as having nine.

Perez’s treatment downtown was a little different than Bower’s, though, according to Huff. He says before Perez posed for his mug shot and entered a lineup, he was allowed to remove his hooded sweatshirt and put on a suit and tie.

“When you arrest somebody, as a normal rule, you bring them in, you fingerprint them and you photograph them,” he explains. “Unless they’re all beat-up and scarred up or bleeding, you clean them up, but then they would go in the lineup in the clothes they were arrested in, not the ones that they want to wear. It’s highly irregular. But he was a cop.”

Two weeks later, police charged Perez with a similar sexual attack that took place June 12, known as Incident D in court filings. This time, the victim was followed to her car at about 5 a.m. after she left her job at a club on Queens Boulevard.

Her attacker put a gun to her head, forced her down a nearby stairwell and forced her to perform oral sex on him. He then forced her back upstairs and into her car, where he attempted to tie her up with seatbelts. Conning him to come up to her apartment with her, they returned to the stairwell, retrieved her keys and sneakers from the ground, and went to the vestibule of the lobby. When the building’s doorman unlocked the door for her, she shut it behind her and screamed that she had just been raped. Her attacker walked to his car and drove away.

Perez was acquitted in both cases, and unbelievably, says Huff, instead of being fired, he was transferred to the evidence room—the very repository that could have possessed incriminating evidence against him (such as a semen-stained garment).

Navarra, to this day, is adamant about Perez’ guilt in both the cases for which he was tried.

“I believe he did those crimes,” he says. “He was found not guilty, but there’s reasons why he was found not guilty.”

The woman from Incident E spoke a rare dialect of Chinese, says Navarra, and they couldn’t immediately find a translator for her when she was brought in. He adds that she also lied on the stand—not about the sex crime, but about who drove her that night. She did, without a license, he says.

“If she lied about that, she might lie about something else, and that’s what the jury hung their hat on, in that case,” he says.

In Incident D, he explains, the doorman pulled a complete 180 on the stand, recanting his story.

Navarra, the 35-year veteran investigator, is sure there are other Perez victims out there as well.

“I believe there’s other victims,” he continues. “I think I had 12, maybe 15 or 20 cases. And I believe that he was responsible for some of those.”

Perez was later the subject of an Internal Affairs Bureau investigation and was caught peeping into apartment windows and in the act of having sex with a prostitute, according to court filings. He resigned shortly afterward. He had been off-duty during all the Pattern #1/91 incidents.

Goldberg learned years later that Fogarty, the Queens sex crimes squad detective who originally arrested Bower, believed Bower to be innocent.

What has kept Ronald Bower alive for so long is hope, he tells his family through weekly and monthly phone calls and a constant stream of letters. Hope that one day “The Truth” will be exposed. Hope that one day he will be exonerated for the heinous acts he was convicted of. Hope that one day he will hug his mother and brother again, hold his daughters.

Hope that he will once again be free.

Hope is also the lifeblood of Bower’s family. Hope that Ronnie will one day come home and hope that “The Truth” that has devastated their lives will one day, at last, be exposed.

“There has to be a way to get him home,” insists Ronald’s brother, Steven. “It’s been a struggle, it’s been very harsh on us, but we have to keep going. To free an innocent man.”

 

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