Man alleges in suit police framed him

He served 12 years before DNA cleared him of 1994 rape.

By: Angela Rozas, Chicago Tribune: May 27th, 2009

A Chicago man freed a year ago after DNA cleared him of a rape for which he spent 12 years in prison has alleged in a federal lawsuit that he was framed by Chicago police.

Dean Cage, 42, was convicted in 1995 of the rape of a 15-year-old girl on the South Side after she identified him in a police lineup and said she recognized his voice.

Cage, who had just moved to Chicago from Arkansas and was working at a supermarket, was arrested a week before Thanksgiving 1994 after police said a tip stemming from a published composite sketch led them to him.

Cage, who had no criminal record, repeatedly denied that he had committed the rape but was convicted in a bench trial and all of his appeals were denied. For years, Cage wrote to the New York-based Innocence Project, asking them to take on his case. In 2006, the project persuaded the Cook County state’s attorney’s office to test Cage’s DNA against evidence taken in the case. The tests excluded Cage as the rapist, charges were dropped and he was freed in May 2008.

Since being freed, Cage received a “certificate of innocence” from the state, allowing him to seek compensation for his years in prison, which he is in the process of doing, said his attorney, Jon Loevy. But last week Cage sued the City of Chicago, a police detective who investigated the rape and other unnamed officers, alleging that he was framed to simply clear the crime.

The lawsuit alleged that Cage looked “nothing like” the composite drawing and that evidence at the time showed the victim had several sexually transmitted diseases that Cage didn’t carry. The suit accused officers of manipulating the victim to implicate Cage and refusing to investigate other possible suspects, even after Cage was cleared by DNA of another rape. The suit alleged the case’s primary detective may have influenced the victim while conducting the lineup.

In an interview Tuesday, Cage said he has struggled for the last year to adjust to life outside of prison, spending time with his three sons, one of whom recently graduated from high school. Finding work has been difficult, as he is still trying to expunge his record, he said. He recently began working in a barbecue restaurant on the South Side. His mother won’t let him travel alone in a car, preferring to send family members to transport him. He rides his bike from home to work, he said.

“It’s been kinda rough,” Cage said with his mother at his side. A scrapbook of exoneration cases he kept for years while in prison lay open before him. “If I didn’t have the support of my family, I don’t know what I would have done,” he said.

Cage said he’s filing suit in the hope of obtaining money to start his own exoneration project for other inmates who may have been wrongfully convicted. He said he also wants to provide for his sons.


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