Investigators on Jan. 9 named the man who they say raped a woman in Prospect Park nearly 24 years ago, citing DNA evidence and closing a case that a prominent New York Daily News columnist once loudly refuted.
The revelation finally brings justice to the victim, a lesbian who newsman Mike McAlary slammed as a liar and a hoaxer in the newspaper after the 1994 attack, according to another journalist who followed the case.
“She was called a liar by one of the most famous columnists in New York City and she’s had to live with that all of these years,” said Gabriel Rotello, a former Newsday columnist and one of the woman’s leading defenders at the time. “She’s been vindicated after all of these years, and I’m thrilled with that.”
Cops linked DNA found at the Lookout Hill rape scene to a 67-year-old man who is currently serving a 75-years-to-life sentence for 1998 sexual-assault convictions. But the statute of limitations ran out on the April 1994 attack, prohibiting prosecutors from charging the man, who is not eligible for a first parole hearing until 2070.
McAlary, who died in 1998, wrote three columns that represented the assault as a hoax, called the then 27-year-old victim a liar, and claimed that she was going to be arrested, prompting her to file suit against the newsman.
The journalist eventually revealed in a deposition that his columns relied on a single source: the then head of the New York Police Department’s press office, John Miller, who now runs the Department’s counterterrorism unit.
But in his own deposition, Miller disputed his role in McAlary’s stories, except to say that police first advised reporters to proceed cautiously on the story as the investigation continued.
Rotello, the former editor-in-chief of the now-defunct LGBTQ weekly OutWeek, interviewed Miller for Newsday, and said the cop claimed that McAlary called him demanding protection after his first column was published.
“Can you lock this thing down, can you bail me out, can you do this, can you do that,” Rotello quoted Miller as saying. “I’m like, Mike, what the f--- is the matter with you … [W]here do you jump to this conclusion that A, it’s a hoax or B, more outrageously, that she’s about to be arrested?”
Miller denied making the comments after Newsday published the column, only to have Rotello produce a recording of the conversation — a scoop that made headlines, but ultimately did nothing to help the woman’s case, the journalist said.
“It made quite a splash at the time and the next day John Miller called me up and apologized to me,” Rotello said. “None of that helped the victim.”
The libel suit was dismissed in 1997 and the woman did not pursue an appeal.
The Daily News, which did not respond to an e-mail asking if it stood by McAlary’s columns, reported in its 2018 story on the rapist’s revelation that the columnist relied on “police sources,” “some cops,” and “detectives.”