A teenager in Philly may get his life back after his accuser failed to identify him in a voice lineup.
Speaking on behalf of a handful of activist in Philadelphia, the fall of 2014 couldn’t have arrived fast enough. It wasn’t the opportunity to elect a new governor – though that was pretty historic – that had us on the edge of our seat, it was the resurgence of an attempted murder case that represented everything wrong with the American criminal justice system.
A then 18 year-old African-American teenager named Tomayo McDuffy, who had no criminal record, was charged with more than 10 felonies (various levels) – which could land him nearly 80 years in prison – because his blind, mentally-ill next door neighbor accused him – and another male suspect, though the police have admittedly stopped looking for anyone else – of breaking into her three story home and attempting to murder her by turning on the stove without lighting the pilot, allowing the home to fill up with gas.
The news wires fell in love with the story that came out of that alleged incident: Guide Dog Saves Blind Woman from Intruder. Yes, you read that correctly. Maria Colon, the female victim who has a history of making false accusations, claimed Mr. McDuffy, and another gentleman, entered her home from the back door, but were quickly chased out by her seeing-eye dog, who…. wait for it… also was able to dial 9-1-1.
Within hours, the police arrested Mr. McDuffy and alerted the media before his mother – nothing wrong with that right?
Ms. Colon said she recognized one of the voices as Mr. McDuffy and, well like most cases involving poor, young, black men any reason was enough to take his life away and put it in the hands of the prison system. This story got a lot of buzz – both locally and nationally – but drew very little support from Philadelphians, which was surprising, given how many local activists there were in line to speak at theTrayvon Martin vigil I organized.
Anyway, like in any good story, a few good men stepped up to the challenge of defending a young boy who was being bullied by the system.
Mr. Asa Khalif, President, Racial Unity; private investigators Mr. Edward Lloyd and Greg Brinkley, and myself were on the case since day one fighting to clear Mr. McDuffy’s name – we even marched in the pouring rain to the District Attorney’s Office to show how much we believed in the young man.
Mr. Brinkley, a former correctional officer, put up the bail money for Mr. McDuffy: $10,000 – 10 percent of $100,000. Thought it seems like a lot of money – and it was – it was a long way from what was originally ordered: $50,000 – 10 percent of $500,000.
That morning at the Criminal Justice Center when Mr. Brinkley dropped $10,000 in cash to free Mr. McDuffy was the beginning of a very long day, and an even longer search for the truth.
The ride up to CFCF to retrieve the aspiring basketball played provided much time for reflection and dialogue about motive: why would a kid risk potentially blowing up a home connected to his, and why isn’t the DA’s office and the Philadelphia Police Department doing their due diligence to ensure the accuser’s story is fully vetted.
As we talked, we passed the bank where Ms. Colon’s son works – he’s estranged from his mother due to a long history of false accusations that the police and prosecutors seem to be purposely ignoring.
We finally arrived at the facility and hours of waiting ensued. Eventually Mr. McDuffy, dressed in a white t-shirt and tan pants, was released. The first people he saw upon walking out the door was Mr. Khalif, Mr. Lloyd and myself, who then led him into the waiting area where he was warmly greeted by his family – only Techbook Online had cameras inside to capture the moment.
After the hugs, we traveled to where the story first began: Marple Street in the Holmesburg section of the City. Everyone on the block was happy to see Mr. McDuffy and from the impression I got, no one believed he was capable of doing something so evil. The reunion could only last for so long, as Mr. McDuffy and his family was expected at Catalyst for Change Ministries in University City for town hall meeting organized by Techbook Online.
At the close of the event, Pastor Keon Gerow had all of the men in attendance surround Mr. McDuffy and he prayed for him – it was an amazing sight to see considering just hours ago he was behind bars.
Mr. McDuffy appeared in court numerous time after that moment – and was even the star attraction at a basketball tournament fundraiser organized by Mr. Isaiah Thomas.
And though he Mr. McDuffy’s team was unsuccessful at taking home the big trophy, it looks like Mr. Mc Duffy’s legal team may grab a win where it matters.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Tomayo McDuffy was in court the first week of November 2014 for a voice lineup – because Ms. Colon can’t see, though Mr. Lloyd has unearthed evidence that proves otherwise. And while the results haven’t been made public,Techbook Online has confirmed that Ms. Colon misidentified Mr. McDuffy in the lineup and his lawyers are hopeful that charges will be dismissed, though that’s ultimately decided by the deputies who head up the trial division.
If this case were to go to trail it would only further traumatize Mr. McDuffy and delay his healing process. So I hope others will join me in calling for this case to be dismissed. It’s time to put this story to bed and allow the real victim a chance to start the next chapter of his life.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™