Jury to Judge Cops in 'Dapper Groper' Case
MANHATTAN (CN) - The well-dressed suspect wrongly accused in a "plague of sexual groping incidents that beset Manhattan" two years ago can take New York City police to trial for an arrest that briefly made him a tabloid sensation, a federal judge ruled.
Between March and April 2012, five women reported similar incidents of a young, tall, white man fondling them and running away on New York City streets and a subway. Police splashed a freeze frame from a surveillance video on posters around the city and offered a reward for tips that led to his capture.
The suspect's dark suit and overcoat fueled headlines that a "dapper groper," sometimes also described as the "well-dressed groper" and "gentlemen groper," was on the loose.
One anonymous tipster led NYPD Detective Michael Rama to Karl Vanderwoude, a then-26-year-old banker who acknowledged that he looked like, but insisted that he was not, the man in the footage.
Taken into the precinct for questioning on April 12, 2012, Vanderwoude said that he offered Rama his Metrocard and his employer's contact information to confirm his alibi, but that these leads were ignored.
Rama formally arrested him after one of the victims picked him out of a lineup, but Vanderwoude claims that he actually was arrested earlier in the secure interview room.
Weeks later, Vanderwoude produced credit card statements, sworn witness accounts, computer records and video surveillance to win the dismissal of his case, but not before being slimed in the New York Post as a "goon."
The tabloids cleaned up Vanderwoude's image after his exoneration in articles reporting that he led weekly Bible studies in his apartment.
Vanderwoude sued the city, Rama and an unidentified police officer later that year for false arrest, malicious prosecution, assault, battery and defamation.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Katherine Failla dismissed all but the false arrest count, which she said hinged upon a jury's decision on the timing of Vanderwoude's arrest.
"[A]ssuming the jury finds that a de facto arrest occurred, it is for the jury to decide when precisely this took place -- be it the moment plaintiff was placed in the interview room and had his personal items taken from him, at some point thereafter when the conditions and length of time during which plaintiff was detained triggered a de facto arrest, or at the moment plaintiff was formally arrested," she wrote in a 44-page opinion.
A pretrial conference has been set for July 8 to set a trial day.
"We're very satisfied that the judge said that we could proceed based on the facts of the case," Vanderwoude's attorney John Tumelty said in a phone interview.
The New York City Law Department declined to comment in light of the pending litigation.
An attorney named Paul Kraft later admitted to the groping spree and copped a plea deal that required him to take 18 months of sexual impulse control therapy in the Brooklyn-based Mustard Seed Program, CBS News reported in May 2013.