Police Sketch Lookalike Wrongly Jailed for Seven Months in Brooklyn

Lanell Dowling cleared despite being identified by four mugging victims.

July 1, 2011 — -- All charges have been dropped against a New York man who was jailed for almost seven months after he was "recognized" from a police sketch and four mugging victims picked him out of a line-up.

Charges were dropped on Thursday after cell phone records and activity on his MySpace page during times that the muggings occurred showed he was not near the scenes of the crimes.

Lanell Dowling, 26, was arrested on April 3, 2010 and accused of four counts of robbery for mugging four older women in Brooklyn, N.Y., over the course of two days in March 2010.

After the release of a police sketch of the assailant, a tipster called police to say that the sketch looked like Dowling and police tracked him down.

Dowling was living with his mother Denise Dowling, 47, a Greyhound Bus driver. She said that after arriving home at 4 a.m. from a long shift, police showed up at her house at 6 a.m. looking for her son. She told police that her son was at his girlfriend's house in Queens and gave them the address. When Denise Dowling called her son, he said he would go to the police precinct because he said he had nothing to do with the crime.

Lanell Dowling said that he was "grabbed on the street" by the police on his way to the precinct and taken to a line-up.

"I had no knowledge of the crime," Dowling said.

Brooklyn Man Cleared Despite Matching Police Sketch and Identified by Four Mugging Victims

All four mugging victims picked Dowling out of a line up, but his attorney, Jay Schwitzman, said that his client was the only one in the line-up that looked remotely like the sketch.

Schwitzman said he and his client did not wish to discuss whether Dowling had a previous police record.

The 67th police precinct in Brooklyn said they could not comment on the case unless the New York Police Department's public information office gave them permission. Requests for comment from the NYPD were unanswered.

Dowling was sent to jail at Rikers Island with a $100,000 bail, where he spent seven months until the bail was lowered to $20,000 and he was able to get out.

His mother struggled as her only child was in jail. "I freaked out. I almost thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown," Denise Dowling said. "I couldn't eat. I couldn't sleep."

While Dowling was in jail, his lawyer continued to investigate. He said the victims who had identified his client would not speak to him so he began to look for other ways to prove Dowling's innocence.

It was through Dowling's cell phone records that he was cleared on Thursday. Tracking of his phone location at the times when he sent text messages showed that he was at his apartment at the times of the attacks. Schwitzman said that his client's posts on MySpace while the crimes were being committed also helped prove his innocence.

On Thursday, all charges against Dowling were dropped.

Schwitzman said they have not yet decided what the next legal step will be in the case. When asked if they are planning to sue, Schwitzman said, "It's certainly a possibility that we're exploring. He was in jail for seven months for a crime he did not commit."

Schwitzman said Dowling has suffered both psychological and financial damage.

At the time of the arrest, Dowling was employed as a security guard, but after his release from jail, Dowling said he was unable to get a job while the case was pending because there was a felony hanging over his head. He has a 5-year-old and another child on the way.

His mother, Denise Dowling, said she was supporting him during this time, which was difficult on her as well.

Denise Dowling is thrilled that the "nightmare" is over. "It's exciting to know that my son is free from false accusations. I just thank God it's over," she said.