Guilty in Acquittal
A Nassau jury has acquitted a Lynbrook man on charges that he raped a woman during a home invasion and robbery last year, lawyers said.
Wiseallah Hightower-Castro, 25, of Starks Place, was acquitted of all the charges against him, including first-degree rape, committing a criminal sexual act, robbery, burglary, criminal use of a firearm, assault and criminal possession of a weapon, his lawyer and a spokesman for the Nassau district attorney said.
He has been in the Nassau County jail for a year.
Defense lawyer Joseph Hanshe, of Sayville, told jurors that police had falsified a written confession by his client. Hanshe also said that the victim in the case had failed to properly identify Hightower-Castro as the man who attacked her.
Aside from these four graphs, the rest of the story came almost straight from the original story about the arrest of the defendant. Even within the second paragraph, the recitation of each charge emits the same stink of accusation, tying Hightower-Castro to the rape, as if he was convicted. Name + Charges = Taint
But the inherent bias is palpable when Givens later writes:
Hightower-Castro was arrested in January 2012 after police said he and two other men forced their way into a Grove Street home while a 22-year-old man was visiting his godmother there. The other two men were never found. No, no, no. The three men were never found, because the one man they did find was the wrong man. He was acquitted, Ann. Acquitted. That means he was not the man, and hence there can be no "other two men," but only all three men.
And why recount the police accusations or Hightower-Castro's arrest? Why recount the details of what the defendant was alleged to do in a story about his acquittal? Instead of a story about a false confession and bad identification, this was a story repeating all the ugliness of the crime connected to the criminal who got away with it.
Hightower-Castro was arrested in January 2012 after police said he and two other men forced their way into a Grove Street home while a 22-year-old man was visiting his godmother there.
The other two men were never found.
No, no, no. The three men were never found, because the one man they did find was the wrong man. He was acquitted, Ann. Acquitted. That means he was not the man, and hence there can be no "other two men," but only all three men.
Granted, Wiseallah Hightower-Castro has a name that many of the readers of Newsday will find troubling, almost criminal in their prejudiced views toward anything relating to Allah. Sure, he looks pretty darned criminal-like, being a young black man, more than sufficient for many readers of Newsday to convict on that basis alone.
Mind you, this happened in Nassau County, Long Island, not a place where acquittals come often or easy. The fact that a jury acquitted someone alone is pretty big news. The fact that a jury acquitted on the basis of a false confession should be huge. That it was a false confession combined with a mistaken identification should be monumental.
At the very least, Newsday should have run a quarter page photo of criminal defense lawyer Joseph Hanshe for his work on this case. He deserves no less.
But what I suspect happened is that Ann Givens was told to write up the story in ten minutes, with a line or two of information about the acquittal. And so, she cribbed from the original story to fill the allotted space, and gave it no more thought than she would if she had to pick off the fast food dollar menu. Maybe less.
So Wiseallah Hightower-Castro is no O.J.Simpson? That's true. But he is a human being who was accused of a heinous crime and, after trial by jury, found not guilty. He is a human being who spent a year in jail awaiting trial, after which he was found not guilty. He is a human being who was arrested, charged and held because of a false confession and a mistaken identification, and found not guilty.
That's pretty big news. It's big to the defendant. It's big to all of us. Even when the defendant isn't a celebrity, or a well-known member of the community, or a politician, or white.
No one can give him back the year he lost in jail. No one can give him back a reputation untainted by allegations of rape and robbery. But someone could have given him the dignity of a public acknowledgement that he endured the legal system and prevailed, with sufficient emphasis on how the defendant was the victim of a false confession and mistaken identification. Ann Givens could have done that. But she didn't. Not even close.
And no, it is not accurate that the other two men were not found, Ann. That's the whole point of an acquittal. Sure, the crime and arrest are far more salacious than the acquittal, and pander to the passion and prejudices of Newsday readers. But the acquittal would have made a damn fine story too, if only anyone put in the time to make it so.
But then, take a look at Hightower-Castro's mugshot. Who cares about this guy. After all, if they didn't convict him this time, they'll get him next time, right? Isn't that the assumption about all young black men?