Monthly Archives: February 2016

Time-Space Continuum

…for us physicists believe the separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion, although a convincing one.            

    Albert Einstein

On October 21, 2004 Pittsfield police investigator Mark Trapani was dispatched to a local Subway sandwich shop to process the scene of a sexual assault.  Upon arrival he was directed to the victims’s car, a white Oldsmobile Alero parked near the front entrance.  While searching the vehicle for evidence, Trapani discovered a badly smudged left index fingerprint on the passenger side window.

Closer examination of the print revealed a surface abnormality which Trapani later 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. The case remained unsolved, leaving a chink in Mark Trapani’s ego.

Four months later, on February 23, 2005, I was wrongly arrested by Pittsfield police and booked on charges unrelated to Trapani’s investigation.  In addition to having no criminal history, I sported a rock solid reputation and was well respected among peers.  But that all vanished when Mark Trapani took a personal interest in me.

Due to his  rank and tenure within the Pittsfield Police Department, Trapani’s daily activity went unmonitored by superiors.  This afforded him infinite latitude to fallaciously connect me with his unsolved case.  He accomplished this through illusory tactics, forged through the discontinuity of time.  In essence he made something appear, disappear, reappear, then vanish…

Anyone familiar with basic police department booking procedures knows the process entails fingerprinting.  Fingerprints are a standard part of a booking record, typically entered into a nationwide database, easily accessible to local, state, and federal police agencies.  An individual’s fingerprints are formed in the womb, usually during the first trimester of pregnancy.  Fingerprints grow larger as a person ages but the basic shape and pattern does not change with time.  Yet through forensic alchemy, Mark Trapani magically transformed my fingerprints in less than a week.

My official Pittsfield Police Department fingerprint card was created by an automated print device called a Live Scan fingerprint machine.  It’s important to note:  No blank area of friction ridge skin appears anywhere on the left index finger.  This is the fingerprint card stored in the nationwide database.  As the fingerprint card of record, it was the only fingerprint card submitted to the assistant district attorney and given to defense counsel.

Unbeknown to anyone, Trapani was secretly withholding a second fingerprint card.  For all intents and purposes it appears identical to the official version with one distinct exception. This set of prints, fingerprints never made public, show a blank area of friction ridge skin on the left index finger.  The fingerprint card is ink rolled, an outdated method that contradicts departmental protocol.  It is also the medium through which Mark Trapani orchestrated my 2007 under-the-counter superior court conviction.  Had it not been for an inadvertent release of documents, no one outside the Pittsfield Police Department would have learned of the secret fingerprint card.

Let’s  imagine:  On October 21, 2004 my left index fingerprint purportedly encompassed a specific blank area of friction ridge skin, discovered at a crime scene.  But four months later, while being fingerprinted on unrelated charges, the abnormality didn’t exist…absent from my official fingerprint card.  But six days later, when I was supposedly fingerprinted in regard to the Subway restaurant incident, the blank area of friction ridge skin reappeared in exact size, shape and location.  The next day this fingertip abnormality vanished forever, evidenced by the fact that it has never shown up on any of my numerous state prison fingerprint cards.

During trial Trapani’s two-card fingerprint ruse was never brought to the jury’s attention.  As a result I was found guilty, subjected to eight years of incarceration.  I lost my home, my job, my friends, and my reputation.  But most significantly, I lost my dignity.  I guess that doesn’t matter, so long as Pittsfield police crime scene investigator Mark Trapani appears to have solved his case thereby hammering out the chink in his ego.

Fingerprints

 

Transparency Promotes Accountability

At the Pittsfield police station, suspects are charged and booked behind closed doors. When questions of propriety arise, regarding specific procedures or behavior, answers boil down to the word of law enforcement versus the word of an arrestee.  Such a covert and collusive environment invites Pittsfield police to place personal agendas and career goals ahead of law and policy.

On the evening of February 23, 2005, I was taken into custody and booked on misdemeanor charges.  While cloistered in the bowels of 39 Allen Street I fell victim to the antics of booking officer David Granger.  Just moments before I was to be fingerprinted Granger launched into a not so convincing act, announcing that the station’s Live Scan fingerprint machine had suddenly malfunctioned.  He claimed that as a result he had no option but to ink roll my fingerprint card.

Less than an hour later someone grabbed the fingerprint card and created a digital copy without my knowledge.  This was achieved by running the original ink rolled prints through the very scanner that Granger had declared out of service.  He’d merely feigned having technical difficulties in order to obtain preparatory fingerprints, from which an ancillary copy could be made.  At that point Pittsfield police depicted my scanned prints as not only being the official fingerprints of record, but also the only prints in existence.  We know this because the ink rolled prints were withheld from the district attorney’s office who, in turn, unknowingly withheld them from defense counsel by proxy.

Two questions: (1) How does such flagrant activity transpire – within a police station no less – yet remain concealed?  (2) How often are cases resolved through illicit booking proceedings or via retooling of booking evidence?  The problem boils down to a lack of transparency.  Conveniently for the Pittsfield Police Department there is no booking videotape, or so we were told, to visually corroborate the fingerprint sleight-of-hand.  But comparison of my arrest report to the electronically scanned fingerprint card reveals the following discrepancy:

date/time recorded on my arrest report:          02/23/2005      @2041
date/time recorded on my fingerprint card:   02/23/2005       @2128

There is a 47-minute time lapse between my booking record and the actual creation of my digital fingerprint card.  How is this possible?  An individual’s fingerprints are processed in the midst of being booked, not 47 minutes later when they’re no longer present to witness ancillary copies being made.  It’s impossible for me to have been fingerprinted at 2128.  By that time I’d already been booked and had long since been escorted to a jail cell to await arrival of the clerk magistrate.  During this 47-minute interim my ink rolled fingerprint card was scanned by an electronic device that was purportedly inoperative.

In a gross act of malfeasance, Pittsfield police crime scene investigator Mark Trapani subsequently wielded my ink rolled prints in such a manner as to appear as though he’d wrapped up one of his unsolved sexual assault cases.  Lying under oath, he claimed to have personally created my ink rolled fingerprint card on March 1st during booking.  He was going out of his way to make it appear as if the two fingerprint cards were completely unrelated, processed independently and on different days.

Trapani never stopped to think, if the Live Scan fingerprint machine had malfunctioned on February 23rd as Granger claims then my ink rolled fingerprint card would have also been created on February 23rd.  No one ever claimed the scanner went out of service, again, on March 1st.  Therefore, with the scanner working fine on March 1st, any fingerprints processed on that date would have been electronically scanned…not ink rolled.  In addition, why on earth would Trapani have bothered to ink roll my prints on March 1st – a method that is outdated and deviates from departmental protocol – if a purportedly legitimate set of electronically scanned prints were already in existence from February 23rd?

How convenient.  With no booking video tapes I was precluded from showing the jury what actually transpired.  In such an unmonitored police environment, devoid of video transparency and accountability, it’s no wonder that abuse of power ranges anywhere from insertion of undue influence to flagrant corruption.