On the evening of October 21, 2004, Pittsfield police responded to the scene of a sexual assault. While searching the victim’s car for evidence, crime scene investigator Mark Trapani captured a latent print of the assailant’s left index finger. The bottom half of the print was significantly smudged, rendering just the top portion suitable for forensic analysis. Further examination of the print revealed an abnormality, which Trapani referred to as: A blank area of friction ridge skin. The print was run through the automated fingerprint identification system (AFIS), however, no match was found and the case went unsolved.
On February 23, 2005, I was arrested by Pittsfield police on specious misdemeanor charges. As per departmental protocol the booking officer was required to process my fingerprints by recording them digitally, through the use of an electronic scanner. But delusive circumstances enabled police to circumvent this protocol. Moments before I was to be fingerprinted, the booking officer announced that the scanner had suddenly malfunctioned. He stated that due to technical difficulties my booking fingerprints would be ink rolled rather than electronically scanned.
Following the dubious creation of my ink rolled fingerprint card, someone within the police department made a digital copy using the same electronic scanner that was supposedly out of order. The scanned version was deceptively introduced as the original, not as a copy generated from pre-existing ink rolled prints. The ink rolled fingerprint card then became a well-kept secret, withheld from the district attorney’s office and defense counsel.
Over the next few days my ink rolled fingerprint card underwent an amazing transformation. At some point between February 23rd and March 1st, a surface abnormality appeared on the left index finger. A surface abnormality that looked exactly like the blank area of friction ridge skin identified months earlier on a certain crime scene latent print. Oddly enough, this abnormality didn’t appear on the scanned fingerprint card that is part of my official record.
As it turned out, investigator Mark Trapani had pinned his unsolved crime on me! On March 1, 2005, he obtained an arrest warrant by feigning a match between the surface abnormality of the crime scene latent print and the new surface abnormality that appeared on my ink rolled fingerprint card while in his possession. An abnormality that, to this day, doesnt appear on my official fingerprints.
Had it not been for an inadvertent release of information by police personnel, I never would have discovered the police department’s illegal toggling of fingerprint cards.